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RD&T overcomes a whale of a problem

The humpback whale carcass on arrival

UK: They might say that no job is too big but RD&T, the Bristol-based refrigeration research company, literally had a whale of a time recently.

RD&T was called upon by a tv company to preserve a humpback whale that had been washed up on the north coast of Scotland.

The aim of the ITV programme, featuring adventurer Ben Fogle, was to find out what feeds on whale carcasses, in particular to discover whether there are any great white sharks in UK waters.

The carcass needed to be frozen to preserve it for the filming which would involve dragging the 30ft carcass through the Irish Sea, with cameras filming the marine life feeding upon it.

The 30ft female humpback weighing more than seven tons was transported to a facility in Shrewsbury, where it was frozen using four tonnes of liquid nitrogen, to preserve it ahead of the experiment. RD&T had to mathematically model and design a freezing and thawing process that prevented the carcass from deteriorating too quickly. Freezing such a large carcass is particularly problematical as ‘conventional’ freezing techniques would take too long and result in the carcass severely deteriorating.

The freezing was carried out by BOC who sprayed the whale with 10,040 litres of liquid nitrogen over a 48-hour period. The nitrogen took the temperature in the container down to -135ºC and the core temperature of the whale was brought down to -5ºC.

The documentary is expected to air on ITV sometime next year.

An unusual way of disposing of a dead whale, perhaps, but far better than the disposal method adopted by the good people of Florence, Oregon in the USA in 1970:

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