Aegina Home & Living - Living in Aegina

 

 

 


LIVING IN AEGINA

What is it REALLY like to live in Aegina?

 

                                                           LIVING

 AN ALTERNATIVE TOURIST ATTRACTION IN AEGINA    
                                                                                      LIVING FEB 2008


One morning, just a week after Easter in the year 2006,a friend passed the house to inform us of a huge whale that was literally beached but dead at the beach in Leonti.

We clambered into the car and set off for Leonti where we were soon forced to slow down because of the convoy of vehicles meandering towards the place where the whale was positioned.

We smelt it before we saw it, a revolting stench which made one want to heave, a putrid cocktail of anaerobic bacteria, ammonia, bile and rotting flesh.

The story was that this poor male baleen had swum too far inshore, straight in to the path of a large cargo or ferryboat making its way across the Saronic Gulf.

The captain was apparently oblivious to its presence and unaware of the propeller slicing its way through the whale’s tail. The incident must have happened at night because the haemorrhage would have been huge, large enough to have alerted the crew but nobody was aware of the whale’s perilous fate and this caused a certain amount of stress among the Greek sailors who love and respect dolphins and whales alike

I had learnt about baleen whales when I read for my biology degree, in particular I remembered that they were filter feeders. *Fringed horny plates composed of keratin(like finger-nails and hairs) hang from the palate and are used to strain zooplankton, including krill from the water.

Baleen whales simply swim along with their mouths open, allowing  plankton and krill to enter but filtering out any unwanted matter.I hadn’t appreciated though just how big and bushy those filters were; they were like huge industrial brooms.

Linear pleats traversed the whale’s belly and these had to be slit open so that the intestines could be pulled into the deep grave, making the whale less heavy work when the time came to heave in his whole body.

Yiannis Poulopoulos, the well known director of Ekpaz ( the animal centre in Anitsao) was in charge of the operation and seemed to know exactly what he was doing...

Feeling sorry for Yiannis and fervently curious, my sons opted to return to the house to collect rubber gloves and their own shovels so that they could assist him with his demanding work.

 If I had been a Greek mother, I suppose I would have refused and reminded them of the health risk involved in such offensive smelling work but instead, being naturally curious and always having had a morbid curiosity about anatomy and physiology of most creatures, I decided it would be akin to having an exclusive natural science dissection lesson; a wonderful learning opportunity.

Yiannis was grateful for the help. My eldest felt honoured and particularly proud to be able to assist with incising the whale’s abdomen and the two boys shovelled spade loads of debris from its cavernous mouth. The locals watched from a safe distance, some holding handkerchiefs to their noses, others took photographs and some children were simply not allowed out of their cars.

It took two bulldozers to eventually prize the whale into the grave which measured  2 metres deep

I had to keep the car windows completely wound down when I collected the boys as they emanated an unbearable stench and I insisted they peel off their clothes outside the front door and deposit all their clothing, including their trainers into a plastic bin-bag so that I could simply tip the garments directly into the washing machine without touching them.

Nevertheless, the boys had really valued the whole experience and learnt so much from Yiannis as they worked alongside him

Meanwhile, Yiannis had made some important observations and had conducted a little research, the results of which are as follows:

 

The whale was male.
The species was a fin whale ( Balaenoptera physalus)
It was approximately 15 metres long
At least 4 metres of the distal end of the body was missing
The fin had been removed ( possibly taken as a souvenir!?)
It was well fed and well hydrated.
The abdomen was full of shrimp.
Three baleens had been spotted swimming in the Saronic Gulf for at least three months before finding the dead one
It was first spotted floating near the rocky island called Laoussis



To visit Ekpaz, drive to Anitsaio. Here you will see all sorts of rescued animals.

The staff are very helpful and informative and the director, Yiannis Poulopoulos is particularly well informed about all sorts of zoological and environmental issues. He is a valuable mine of information. Tel: 22970 – 31338   Mobile 6979 252277

Opening hours:
Winter   10:00 – 15:00
Summer 10:00 – 14:00 and 18:00 - -21:00
 
*Kershaw D  edition (1988)
 Animal Diversity, page 401

 

Alison Lorentzos                                   Copyright 2008

 

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