The vast seas of the world hold many mysteries, of which we have barely tapped the surface. Almost every day, there are reports from all over the globe about the discovery of new animal species and unexplainable occurrences emanating from the depths of the oceans.
Although many are finally identified, such as this mysterious sphere found floating in Western Australia about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Bunbury, others still remind us of how little we really know about the world in which we live.
What is this weird monstrosity bobbing along in the middle of the ocean?
Mark Watkins and his father planned some together time on an otherwise uneventful morning as they set out on a fishing trip that would hopefully net them a nice fish dinner. Soon they came across what they first believed to be an overturned boat floating across the waves.
As they neared this alien-looking blob, they thought it might be the remains of a hot air balloon that had seen better days. But the truth soon set them free along with the familiar stench of death that filled their nostrils.
In life, this creature was a gigantic whale whose body was bloated as the result of the gasses released in the decomposition process, which occurs when the animal’s internal organs and stomach contents begin to rot. The species of whale has not been positively identified at this time, but judging from its belly texture, experts believe it to be either a humpback or southern right whale.
Beached whales present a problem to communities along the coastline.
According to Marine biologist Andrew David Thaler, a whale carcass can be very volatile, as the pent up gasses can easily explode, creating an unbelievable stench.
In a recent interview with National Geographic Magazine, he said: “Decomposing whale is one of the worst smells in the world." He believes the only alternative is for beach authorities to bury the whale carcass deep in the sand and leave it to break completely down, which requires significant patience as the process can take as long as 30 years.
Whale deaths in the ocean are a boon for deep sea creatures.
Whales that die in the ocean are a natural occurrence, and their deaths are known as ‘whalefalls.’ The heavy body usually sinks intact to the bottom of the ocean where a myriad of sea scavengers known to the world’s deepest waters including hagfish, sleeper sharks, rattails and amphipods, attack and devour the carcass, leaving only the bones.
Some of the sea creatures drawn to the activity of a whale fall are not unique to such an occurrence but also new and still unknown to modern science.
It takes about a year for the whale bones to attract other sea creatures such as unusual crustaceans, polychaete worms, known for the bristles on their bodies, and mollusks who feed on the newly-enriched sediment and organic material contained within the whale skeleton.