I spend a lot of time thinking about where the final gasp of life will exit my body and where my corpse will inevitably fall, and, weirdly, number three on the list of "Ways I Am Almost Certainly Going to Be Found Dead" is exactly how a porpoise was found last week: sexually exhausted on a side street in Sussex, England, wrapped in a yellow tarpaulin.
"I was confused," said Tim Allen, who, along with his neighbor, discovered the corpse of an elderly male porpoise last week, more than a mile from the beach. "It's a weird place to dump a porpoise body. We found it at 5:30 PM, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) came and covered it in a wrap at 6:15PM." A quiet dignity.
How did a 110-pound dead porpoise find itself so far inland? Police suspect drunken carrying. How did the 110-pound dead porpoise end up dead in the first place? In news that emerged yesterday, a whole bunch of porpoise fuckin'.
"The male porpoise was in a pretty poor way," Rob Deaville of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Program (CISP) told the Argus. "Its body was fairly fresh, which would indicate it had died up to a couple of days before it was found. The cause of death seems to be starvation and hypothermia.
"This appears to be an elderly porpoise, which would have had to expend most of his energy reserves to mate—leaving him deathly hungry and cold. Harbor porpoises live on a knife edge, and if they don't get enough food, their fat reserves deplete, meaning they don't have enough energy to catch food.
"Their health spirals downward, and they die as a result of both starvation and hypothermia."
Weirdly, this isn't even a rare occurrence. "We got a call once about a dolphin that was stuffed inside a phone box in Kent," Rob says, with the kind of uncomplicated sincerity of a man who once opened a phone booth and had a wet animal corpse and a bunch of nudey cards flop out toward his feet—which means more than one person in Sussex has a thing for drunkenly clasping a cetacean body in a fireman's lift and staggering back in the direction of the town.
In recent years, the sea has given us a number of gifts: There was the San Diego demonoid that washed up a couple of Februaries ago and basically looked like an especially trashed dog; and you can't move dead whales, which have to be carefully dealt with unless they go off like party poppers. Also, whale shit is an important component in expensive perfume, making it big business—a decent whale turd can net you up to $285,000.
We don't quite know how to deal with these offerings from the sea. We poke jellyfish with sticks. We collect shard-like shells and put them in a blue plastic bag so we can carry them in a stinking pile back to our homes. We make faces at dead cuttlefish before deciding we should feed their skeletons to our budgies. And occasionally the sea sees what we are doing and throws us a whale corpse to deal with. The sea sees us and goes, "Oh, like that is it? Well have a porpoise that fucked itself to death." Well played, the sea. Well played.
Follow Joel Golby on Twitter.