Saturday 13 August 2011

Interning in Namibia

by Jaime Werenka 

My first week as an intern for the Namibian Dolphin Project went super well. I found it pretty easy to adjust to the house and town and everyone is really sweet. The work is hard but enjoyable- yes even the office work isn’t too bad. In fact an office day is almost like a day off because it is so chill. We have early mornings and early nights here - falling asleep at 9pm is no problem after a few days work. And as all of us interns had been warned but hoped differently, it is cold here in the winter.

The first week came to an exciting close with the necropsy of a False Killer Whale. Simon received a phone call about a whale washed up on the public beach in Swakopmund just as our work day was starting. Awesome!

The False Killer Whale was already dead when we arrived but it was still warm. It looked like as if it was a life size plastic toy. We took several measurements at first and found that it was a 4.02m long juvenile male. Simon and Tess decided that head of the whale should be removed so the skull could be taken to the national museum in Windhoek. Well you can’t exactly leave a decapitated whale on a public beach. So the necropsy, which took approximately five hours to complete, began. It was pretty gruesome but so amazing. I readily put on some gloves, grabbed a knife, and dug in. Literally.

It was also very educational. Simon and Tess showed us the heart, lungs, kidneys, intestines, stomach, and pretty much everything else there is to see. A unknown growth was also found and kept for further observation along with other whale bits like the stomach and testes.

Tomorrow the stomach will be cut open because the weather has been no good lately for boat work. We will be checking the contents to learn about the diet of the whale, as well as examining the stomach for parasites like worms.

[ Note - subsequent to this post being written, we have opened the stomach and it was full of full of squid beaks and large, freshly dead (but unidentifiable) fish, so clearly the animal had been eating recently ]

So far it has been an amazing almost two weeks of raw science.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that sounds awesome! i wish one day i will be able to do something as exciting/educational as that. I feel as though just the experience will make another amazing animal encounter memory that i'd always remember. If only we were all so lucky...