How carving up Newfoundland’s dead whales is helping science

TORONTO – When two blue whales washed up on the shores of Trout River and Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland, residents didn’t know what to do about it.

But Mark Engstrom did.

The deputy director of collections and research at the Royal Ontario Museum in Ontario wanted it.

READ MORE: WATCH – Preparing Newfoundland’s dead blue whales for a big move

Engstrom saw an opportunity to not only promote the research being done at the museum, but to also educate people about marine conservation and do some ground-breaking research on the mammal.

“It’s a real tragedy,” he told Global News. “I mean, we lost five per cent of the population of blue whales in the North Atlantic through this one incident.”

A rotting blue whale carcass sits on the shore in Trout River, N.L.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO – NTV News, Don Bradshaw

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It is believed that there are only 200 to 250 blue whales in the North Atlantic waters. They are the largest animal on the planet, weighing as much as 200 tons. Though whaling was stopped in the 1970s, the populations have been slow to make a comeback, mainly due to the fact that they breed relatively slowly. These whales were two of nine that were likely killed after they were crushed by ice in the waters off the coast of Newfoundland.

The last blue whale to have washed up on a shore was more than 20 years ago, in Prince Edward Island. So the fact that not only one but two blue whales had washed up ashore was a unique chance to study the enormous mammals.

Engstrom said the towns were supportive of the whale removal since, though the carcasses were attracting tourists, they were also emitting a foul smell.

Eddie Samms, left, and Aaron Thom work to cut up the carcass of a blue whale in Woody Point, N.L., on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

“You couldn’t have it sitting there rotting for five years,” he said. “Or more.”

He said that for a whale to decompose takes an awfully long time. The blue whale from PEI was buried on a beach more than 20 years ago, he pointed out, and when it was recently dug up, it was still there.

“It wasn’t great internally, but it was still a whale. It wasn’t bones,” he said. “So [Newfoundland whales] would’ve been there for many years. Of course, that’s an untenable situation. I mean it’s 100 tons of meat out there.”

So Engstrom, who is also the senior curator of mammals at the ROM, gathered the funding through donors and residual funds earmarked for this kind of research and got the project underway.

As for the total cost of the endeavour, Engstrom said, “I’d rather not say. But, yeah, it’s expensive.”

There were multiple factors in the cost: paying staff, as well as hiring local people and heavy machinery. There was the cost of the landfill that would be home to the non-skeletal remains. Then there was the cost of the services from Research Casting International, the company that assists with specimen restoration.

What’s next

So how do you prepare the largest creature on Earth for display?

It’s a long process.

For the whale at Trout River, the first step was to get it to a place that was accessible by the researchers. It had washed up under the town’s boardwalk. So the whale was moved to Woody Point.

WATCH: Dead blue whale towed ashore in Newfoundland

Then the carving began. The team had to remove a large section of blubber; then the muscle. Once that was done, each bone had to be removed individually and catalogued, then loaded into a truck and sent back to Research Casting International in Trenton. That process took six days.

When asked about the smell, Engstrom said that, though he saw some people throw up when near it, he doesn’t even notice it.

“It just smells like whale to me. It doesn’t smell like chicken,” he laughed.

The bones are currently in Trenton where they will be buried in composting in order to clean whatever flesh remains. It will lie there for between six months to a year.

The oil in the bones will have to be removed as well. Though there is a mechanical degreasing machine available to do that, Engstrom said that he doesn’t think they’ll use that process.

Instead, they will put it in a water bath where the oil will rise to the top. That will take one or two years.

And the process still won’t be done.

Once the bones are clean, the team plans to scan the bones so they can create a cast.

The whole process, from beginning to end, will likely take around five years, Engstrom said.

Once it is done, Memorial University, which also contributed funds to the project, will get one of the whales for display.

What will be learned

“The question is ‘why’? Why do we do this?” Engstrom said. “I think it would be an attraction that people would be interested to come and see it. But what I really want to be able to do is to talk about what goes on at the museum behind the scenes. People don’t realize that the ROM is a big research institution…to understand the kind of research we’re doing and what it contributes to knowledge.”

WATCH: Dead blue whale carcass on the move

He’d also like to better understand the massive creatures of our oceans.

One of most interesting endeavours will be the sequencing of the blue whale’s genome, something that has never been done before.

Engstrom recognizes the loss of the whales as a tragic event, but knows that good will come of it. Researchers will be able to learn such things as the evolution of the whale and genetic variations within populations.

“It’s a real sad event,” Engstrom said. “I don’t want to make light of this. I never would have wished this to happen. I would rather not have a whale.”

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How Global News is covering the Ontario election

WATCH ABOVE: Global News Anchor Leslie Roberts discusses the Ontario election campaign and how our coverage will roll out tonight after the votes are tallied.

TORONTO – Millions of Ontario residents are casting their vote Thursday to decide the province’s next government.

Global News has complete coverage of the Ontario election.

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READ MORE: Ontario’s $90M election could bring province right back to where it started

We’ll have the latest news stories, poll results, seat projections and interactive features. Find out what the hot ridings are leading up to polls closing, the issues that are the driving force behind the leaders’ campaigns, and more.

And of course, if you’re still an undecided voter, check out our handy guide on the candidates platforms.

Meanwhile, follow our live blog for photos, updates, and analysis from our Global News reporters in the field and specialists in studio.

When the polls close at 9pm ET Globalnews桑拿按摩 is your source for real-time election results. Find out who won your riding, seat counts, and who will form the next Ontario government.

ELECTION RESULTS: Get real-time results on election night

Global Toronto’s complete Decision Ontario special broadcast will be live streamed on our blog starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The West Block‘s Tom Clark will be reporting from Kathleen Wynne’s camp, Jackson Proskow will be with Andrea Horwath and Sean Mallen will be at Tim Hudak’s headquarters.

Host Leslie Roberts will be joined by our Queen’s Park bureau chief Alan Carter in-studio as well as two former Ontario premiers, Ernie Eves and David Peterson.

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AHS says measles outbreak in Calgary now over

CALGARY – Alberta Health Services says a measles outbreak originally declared in Calgary in April has now been lifted.

The outbreak was first declared on April 29th after 22 cases of measles were confirmed throughout the province.

However, the outbreak remains active in Edmonton.

Officials say they will no longer be offering an early additional dose of measles vaccine to infants six months of age to less than 12 months of age, who are living in or travelling to the Calgary – which was

recommended while the outbreak was active.

AHS still warns that without immunization, Albertans may be at risk of contracting the illness.

The measles vaccine is available, free of charge, through Alberta’s publicly-funded immunization program to:

All Albertans born in or after 1970 require two documented doses of measles vaccine, to be protected.Children in Alberta are recommended to receive these two doses of measles vaccine, administered at 12 months of age and between four and six years of age.Infants who received an additional early dose of measles vaccine during the outbreak must still receive both of these routinely recommended doses (at 12 months of age and between four and six years of age) to be protected against measles.
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What is Measles?

Measles is caused by a virus that is spread easily through the air. It’s very contagious, and anyone who has not had the disease in the past or has not been vaccinated is in danger of becoming infected.

Typically, the disease will develop about 10 days after exposed, and tends to be most severe in infants and adults than in children.

Symptoms of Measles:

Fever of 38.3° C or higher, cough, runny nose and/or red eyes, and a red blotchy rash that appears three to seven days after fever starts, beginning behind the ears and on the face and spreading down to the body and then to the arms and legs.

How do I know if I was immunized?

Albertans uncertain of their immunization history, or their child’s immunization history, can call their local public health office or Health Link Alberta (1.866.408.5465) to discuss.

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Police, World Cup protesters clash in Brazil – National

ABOVE: Protesters and police clash in Sao Paulo before World Cup match 

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Protesters and Brazilian police clashed in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday ahead of the first World Cup match, but the demonstrations largely died down before kickoff.

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More than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Some tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades. The flow of traffic to the arena was not blocked.

READ MORE: World Cup fever kicks off with Brazil vs Croatia

Later, a group of fewer than 100 protesters gathered near a subway stop about 8 miles (13 kilometres) west of the stadium. No protests reported near the arena itself.

IN PHOTOS: Powerful images of protests against World Cup in Brazil

A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling tear gas. An Associated Press photographer was injured in the leg after a stun grenade exploded near him. CNN reported on its website that two of its journalists were also injured.

A protester is detained by police during a demonstration by people demanding better public services and against the money spent on the World Cup soccer tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

“I’m totally against the Cup,” said protester Tameres Mota, a university student at the Sao Paulo demonstration. “We’re in a country where the money doesn’t go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums.”

In the crowd were anarchist adherents to the “Black Bloc” tactic of protest, a violent form of demonstration and vandalism that emerged in the 1980s in West Germany and helped shut down the 1999 World Trade Summit in Seattle.

READ MORE: Civil strife all part of the game in Brazil

Such Black Bloc protesters have frequently squared off against police in several Brazilian cities in the past year, as a drumbeat of anti-government demonstrations have continued since a massive wave of protests hit Brazil last year.

Meanwhile, about 300 protesters gathered in central Rio de Janeiro in another demonstration against the World Cup. Police started using tear gas and took a few protesters there into custody, as marchers took to streets to denounce lavish public spending on a sports tournament in a nation with profound social needs.

But that protest also mostly dissipated a few hours before the match.

Police move past burning debris during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The demonstrations in recent months have paled in comparison those last year, when a million people took to the streets on a single night airing laments including the sorry state of Brazil’s public services despite the heavy tax burden its citizens endure. Those protests were largely spontaneous and no single group organized them.

That’s now changed, said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. He said the recent protests have shrunk, because they are “very specific in their aims, so they are quite easy for the police to control.”

Because the recent protests have been organized by established groups, there are leaders with whom the government can negotiate. Fleischer noted that federal officials recently convinced a large activist group of homeless workers to not demonstrate during Cup.

But there will remain remnants of protests because people who adhere to the Black Bloc movement and other “anonymous groups are difficult to negotiate with because they have no leaders to dialogue with,” Fleischer said.

©2014The Canadian Press

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