Friday, January 20, 2006

Dead “baleia” in Dili harbour

The traffic was banked up on the road that follows the coast through Dili and tens of people were crowded on the street and foreshore. What could it be? We strained to see through the windows of the taxi and saw something floating in the water. It was hard to make out exactly what it was so after we had lunch I went down to the beach to investigate. It turned out to be two dead mating baleen “baleia” (whales) and very “dodok” (rotten) ones at that! The stench was enough for some Timorese to cover their noses and mouths. The male “baleia” was 2.4 metres long and had died from injuries sustained from a deep gash down one side of its body, presumably caused by the spear of a fisherman or the propeller of a boat. The female died from unknown injuries. Their presence attracted a lot of attention. When I returned to work, I told my colleagues about it and they all rushed off to see the latest attraction in Dili harbour. When they returned, I asked my colleague if this had happened before and she said yes, dead and alive whales wash up on the beaches of Timor. The “baleia” were subsequently cut up and buried presumably at the Dili tip in Tibar.

At the same time, I heard on the BBC World News, about a five-metre northern bottle-nosed whale which became stranded in London’s River Thames; a whale which is normally found in the deep waters of the north Atlantic. This was the first sighting of the species in the Thames since records began a hundred years ago and never had a whale come so far up the Thames, passing the Houses of Parliament this very morning. Despite rescue efforts, the whale died from multiple causes.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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