x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Time Frame: Whale fatally stranded in Abu Dhabi

John Vale, a Briton who worked for the oil industry from the late 1950s, took this photo of a stranded whale in the shallow waters off what is now the Corniche, near the junction with Airport Road.

Courtesy of John Vale
Courtesy of John Vale

After the discovery of a beached sperm whale in Fujairah last week, comes this reminder that cetaceans also venture into the waters of the Arabian Gulf.

This specimen was found in Abu Dhabi and photographed by John Vale, a British man who worked in the oil industry from the late 1950s.

It appears to have become stranded in the shallow waters off what is now the Corniche, near the junction with Airport Road. Dolphins and sharks were common in those waters before the construction of the breakwater and Lulu Island, but even in those days, such a large marine mammal was unusual.

But not unprecedented. The International Whaling Commission has recorded several species in the Gulf, including blue, fin and humpback whales.

This particular specimen is not identified and nothing is known about how it was disposed of, but a fin whale was found beached near Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah in April 1978. Like the Fujairah specimen, the body was buried to allow the flesh to decompose. A year later the RAK whale was dug up and the bones sent for display at UAE University.

Excavations of a deep water channel in Mussaffah in 2006 uncovered the remains of a humpback whale later carbon dated as being around 6,000 years old.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae