Nature Shock: The Whale That Blew Up in the Street

Tuesday 28th October
8pm on Channel 5

The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world continues. This instalment focuses on the circumstances surrounding the gruesome events of January 2004 when a dead sperm whale exploded in the middle of a Taiwan street.

At 6.30am on 26 January 2004, police were called to a grisly scene on a busy street in Tainan, southern Taiwan. A huge dead body lay on the back of a truck, while blood and entrails were spread across the road, nearby cars and shop fronts. All the stunned bystanders knew was that a whale had just blown up in the street.

The 50-ton sperm whale - the biggest ever recorded in Taiwan - was being transported from the coast where it had washed up 24 hours earlier to a university for examination. But the journey was cut short by the unimaginable event. Large parts of intestine, chunks of blubber and gallons of blood burst from the tail section of the animal, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Before long, local news cameras arrived on the scene and began to capture the surreal images. The man in charge of transporting the whale was Professor Wang Chien-ping, of the National Cheng Kung University, who wanted to perform a necropsy on the animal. While the rest of the city cleaned up, the indefatigable professor began the long, unpleasant process of collecting the miscellaneous body parts from the street.

The whale eventually reached its destination and was placed under a huge canopy, where a 60-strong team of scientists and volunteers started the immense task of dissecting the animal. By this time, hundreds of onlookers had gathered to watch the scientists at work.

Four years on, the skeleton of the whale is a popular tourist attraction in Taiwan and its story has become part of local folklore. But the cause of the explosion is still the subject of much debate.

Now, a team of international experts attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery. What could inflict such a huge trauma on the biggest predator on the planet?


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