The whale was also a victim of the recent storms, removing and moving sand at Wharekaho Beach last week. The carcass of the sperm whale that was towed from Matapaua Bay late last year, is a reminder of the issue that our community processed in relation to the place of the whale in Maori culture and the desire of Joe Davis and his team to undertake cultural and commercial fl ensing on behalf of their people. There is simply not enough depth in the sand to bury a whale that size. The base rock is not far under the surface. However, on the first reasonably fine day since then, iwi organised a digger to enshroud this great creature's carcass, once again, in sand. It will be some time before natural decomposition will allow this creature to finally find its way back to its ocean home.
Letters to the editor
Whale at Wharekaho not buried at all I see that Stuff has already done a story about the fact that the decomposing remains of this whale have been exposed by erosion caused by Cyclone Hale. It did not take a weather event like Cyclone Hale to do this. Local people would tell you it was inevitable. The whale was “buried” about 15 metres from the Tohetea Creek which frequently floods and gouges out a different new course for itself. On the other side the sea is about the same distance away. The photo below was taken about two hours after high tide and the sea was calm today but waves pound over this bank several times a year - sometimes build it up, sometimes erode it. It did not take a Hale to expose this carcass. As you can see from the photo, to say the remains of the whale was buried is not strictly correct. The person in the photo, standing on uneroded sand, is nearly two metres tall, so it’s easy to work out how little sand the whale was covered by. It certainly wasn’t six feet under! Possibly there’s a layer of rock that prevents going deeper but that could have easily been tested before the whale was buried. It is of deep concern that this presented a rather horrible danger - that of someone unwittingly walking across the thin layer of sand and falling through it into tonnes of putrid whale fl esh as it rots down. (Because locals were barred from approaching while the whale was being fl ensed and buried it was not realised how shallow the grave is). In addition, many locals are concerned that there must be fl uids leaching from the decomposing fl esh into the nearby creek and sea. This is an area where many families fi sh, swim and play. The extent of potential leachate could have easily been tested using dyes. It could still, and should be. Your stories quote Ngati Hei Kaumātua, Joe Davis and the local DOC head who make it sound a perfectly sensible and well considered decision to bring the whale twelve kilometres to Wharekaho from Matapaua and then bury its remains in this place. They would, of course, be defending this action for which they have joint responsibility. Just about any local who knows this beach would tell you otherwise - forcefully!!! Seek out the facts Stuff ! A long time local - Whitianga