I Saw a Dead Whale's Dick in Iceland, and It Changed My Life

Seriously...

At the information center in the tiny, picturesque town of Vik, Iceland, a young man was sitting behind the desk reading an old paperback copy of Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut.

I asked him what he thought of it. "I just started," he mumbled through a mouth half-full of sandwich. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"Yeah, I was just wondering what we should see in the area. We only have a few hours."

My wife and I had driven two hours to Vik so that we could make our way back toward our hotel at a leisurely pace, stopping at a few of the sites of Iceland's southern coast along the way. We had a rough itinerary, but it seemed like a good idea to consult with a local while we were stopped to use the bathroom.

Vik, Iceland

The young man tore a tourist map from a pad and walked me through the highlights of the area. He pointed me to a spot above the town's church where we could get the best view of Vik's handful of postcard blocks, to a nature reserve noted for beautiful ocean scenery, and to a stretch of volcanic beach known for its dangerous waves and for a towering mass of basalt pillars—where tourists go to take pictures and to be surprised by freak waves that knock them down and occasionally kill them. At this point my wife had joined us from the bathroom, and the young man pulled out his phone to show us something else at that same stretch of beach.

"If you go all the way down to the other end, there's something else right now that is pretty amazing. A humpback whale washed up a few days ago. If he's still there—it's definitely a he—you might want to go see. Here's a picture my friend sent me. So, yeah, it's definitely male."

He seemed to be suppressing his amusement as he showed us an image of his friend posing beside a whale corpse, gesturing toward its exposed member. He showed us another shot, one of the whale's eye, which had filled with fresh blood. Did we want to see a beached dead whale? It turned out the answer was "yes." I can't say why, because we didn't discuss it. We both just seemed to agree that it was something we shouldn't miss.

Driving down toward the crowded lot where tourists parked to pose with the basalt pillars, I thought I could see a big dark mass on the far end of the beach, then I lost sight of it behind a hillock, and the pillars came into view. They're fascinating to look at. Perfectly vertical six-sided columns of stone—formed when volcanic rock cools just right. They jutted up above the black sands, and it was possible to clamber up a few levels, which a number of tourists were doing.

Basalt Pillars

We stayed long enough to have our turn taking a few shots, and we marveled for a bit at the waves crashing against the steep slope of sand—high winds throwing billows of mist back from their crests. From the crowd of tourists we couldn't see any beached whale. We weren't sure how far the beach stretched, or if a high tide had already swept across the sand and pulled the humpback back into the ocean. I decided to run ahead of my wife to see if it was worth the trek.

A ribbon of smooth stones provided better resistance than the sand. They clattered under my feet as I raced along the beach. Half a mile down I saw again the dark mass I'd spotted from the car, with something white projecting from its left side. But it was distant enough that it might have been anything. I unzipped my coat and walked for a stretch to catch my breath. A handful of people were milling about closer to the dark shape. I passed a photographer heading the other way and thought about asking if she'd seen the whale, but the idea of it felt strange. Even if we were both there for the same thing, there was something shameful or sacrilege in the attraction to such a morbid spectacle or in the idea of discussing it aloud. I started running again.

Eventually I was close enough to be sure it was the whale. The white underside of one giant fin was pointing out to sea. I ran a little further—in awe of him even from a distance—before I stopped and began walking back toward my wife, waving both arms overhead in big sweeping arcs—the signal that the whale was really there. It took us a while to spot one another. I had run farther than I'd realized. Eventually she waved her arms back at me. We walked slowly toward each other for a long time before we were together again. Tire tracks from some huge vehicle had made twin troughs in the sand. We kicked along beside them, making a game out of throwing rocks.

When we reached the whale, the other people had cleared out. We were the only ones there. He was something in excess of thirty feet long. Enormous, but probably not full-grown. My wife was expecting something bigger—closer to the blue whale model that hangs from the ceiling in the Museum of Natural History. She wondered if he was an infant. I guessed he was probably a teenager.

Barnacles

He was lying on his side in the sand, his belly beginning to bloat with rot, spreading his accordion ribs and giving him almost the appearance of pregnancy. His only visible eye—so small in comparison to his bulk—had grown dark and hazy since the young man's friend had snapped that picture. There was no sense that a sentient creature had ever lived behind that blur. On his chin, barnacles had opened to reveal the tiny tentacles of the soft creatures inside. Deep divots, like acne scars, showed where the whale had managed to knock other barnacles loose. His fin was longer than a person is tall. His mouth hung open, and pebbles were caught in the push broom of his baleen fibers. Where his body provided shelter from the wind, the smell of death was heavy and nauseating.

The whole experience hit me harder than I was expecting. I had a more intense feeling of mortality than I've felt at any funeral. There was no mortician's makeup or flowers or a fancy box to dress up the horror as anything formal or somber. Life had abandoned this awesome, powerful creature. Had he already been sick—or dead—when he washed up, or did the beach itself kill him—drying him out and crushing his organs under his own tremendous weight?

A few days ago this dead lump had been so much more—and so much more alive—than I will ever be. He had shared his song with other whales over thousands of miles. He had swelled his mouth with enough water to fill a swimming pool, spitting out what he didn't want to eat. He had launched himself into the air and slammed back through the waves with the force of a train crash. Now he was only an object—a mass of blubber decomposing on the beach.

Whale dick

And there was his dick on the windward side, just as it had looked beside the young man's friend in that picture—fully exposed and hanging from the whale's lower belly almost to the sand. It was as thick as a man's thigh, and maybe at least four feet long. Waxen white at its base, it tapered toward a blood red point like someone had been using it to paint a fading sunset. As I watched it, the wind sent it gently swinging. There was something so grotesque and comical about the sight of it. And at the same time soothing. It was the only part of the whale that moved. A metronome for the world. Keeping the rhythm of a slow return to nature—a peace and a purpose after death.

On the walk back to the car, we passed several dead fish and birds in various states of decay along the beach. I wondered how long it would take for the whale to be stripped down to his skeleton—how many fish and birds would he feed along the way. I found myself hoping that, when I die, I won't be made-up or put in a fancy box. Nature is waiting to take my body back. I don't want to disappoint her.

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Travel Tips

Best Jobs for People Who Love To Travel

If you want to travel but have a job that is currently holding you back, here are a few of our suggestions for the best jobs for people who love to travel.

For many people, traveling is an amazing experience, but traveling is not always feasible because of responsibilities to work.

One way to get around this roadblock is to get a job that will let you travel and see the world. Here are some of the best jobs for people who love to travel.

Hostelworld HostelworldHostelworld.com

Translator

A translator is a wonderful job for those who want to travel. It will bring you to many places as you work, so long as those places speak the language you can translate. The great thing about translating is the variety of work you can get by translating for specific clients or just translating for tourists in the area. You can choose what type of scene you wish to work in very easily.

Pilot

A pilot fits the definition of a job that gets to travel perfectly. Now, whether you are a private pilot or a commercial pilot, you will still get to fly all over the planet. The only major problem with this job is the requirement of flight classes. But once you get your license, you can fly freely around the world while making yourself money to fund your trips.

Travel blogger

Being a travel blogger is a temperamental job but, if done correctly, it will allow you to visit anywhere you want. Writing to fans as you travel the world can be a fun and exciting way to engage with the planet. This job can be difficult to do, though, as you must be able to write consistently and capture your audience with each post.

English teacher

This may not sound like a job that allows you to travel, but schools all around the world are always looking for more people to teach English.

In this career, you would move near the school that you would teach at and live there over the course of your time there. The interesting thing about this job is that it does not necessarily require a teaching degree, depending on the school and country in question. You also get to live in a new country for an extended period.

When it comes to the best jobs for people who love to travel, these are just a few of our suggestions. There are plenty of jobs where you can travel around the world, but these ones are far-reaching and cover a lot of different lifestyles. They might seem like pipe dreams, but hey, you never know!

Seattle, Washington is a rainy, coffee-fueled, coastal town often referred to as the "Emerald City."

Located against the ecological wonderland of Puget Sound, this cosmopolitan, seaside city is a mishmash of arts, culture, history, nature, and, of course, cloudy weather. Thanks to its proximity to nature, its greenery, and its culturally rich, big-city atmosphere, the city is becoming increasingly popular, both for tourists and those looking for a change of scenery.

The Big Stops: Tourist Seattle

If you only have a few days to visit Seattle, you'll probably want to check out the area's most famous attractions.

For nature lovers and summit-chasers, there's the imposing, wildflower-shrouded Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainierthebesttravelplaces.com

Mt. Rainier

For foodies, there's the popular Pike Place Market, a giant patchwork of food-sellers and friendly chaos where you can purchase everything from giant crabs' legs to bottomless amounts of coffee (more on that later).

Pike Place Marketseattle.eater.com

And finally, there's the iconic Space Needle and the Sky View Observatory, which will give you extraordinary views of the city.

Space Needlegetyourguide.com

Seattle Arts and Museums

For arts and culture lovers, Seattle has plenty to cut your teeth on. Don't miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a collection of extraordinary blown-glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly Gardensfodors.com

Chihuly Gardens

For art, there's the giant Seattle Art Museum Downtown. Seattle also offers the Museum of Pop Culture, a nonprofit that features all your favorite icons from history, and plenty of other options.

Museum of Pop Culturesmithsonianmag.org

For some history, there's the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which commemorates Seattle's history as a gold rush hub.

There are plenty of quirky attractions—like the giant Fremont Troll, the 18-foot sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood that cuts an imposing figure.

Fremont Trollsillyamerica.com

You could also take in the city from a boat—marine enthusiasts might enjoy visiting to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to explore the history of this port city.

Seattle, of course, also has a gritty underground side—you may know the city from its time at the heart of the '90s grunge movement.

It also has a long, storied history that has left more than a few scars. You can literally see its underground through one of its underground tours, which will take you on a walk through the "buried city," the remnants left over from before the Great Fire of 1889.

Seattle Undergroundpinterest

Natural Wonders

Seattle is notorious for its natural wonders. For a close-up view, there's the Seattle Aquarium, a marine experience that showcases the best of what Puget Sound has to offer.

For more exposure to the beauty of Seattle's nature, try the Washington Park Arboretum, a 230-acre showcase of Seattle's wetlands and natural wonders.

Washington Park Arboretumtriposo.com

You might also pay a visit to the Alki Beach for some time with the ocean waves.

Alki BeachMetropolitangardens.blogspot.com

Or consider taking a more exhaustive adventure to Discovery Park, a giant and labyrinthine natural park at the edge of Puget Sound.

Discovery Parktrip savvy.com

Food and Drink

Food tours are also popular options for those who want to get more intimate with the city's cuisine, and Seattle is often ranked as one of the best cities for foodies.

It's also a great place for coffee-heads. You might also pay a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, AKA Ultimate Starbucks, a tasting room that features a coffee library amongst other treats for coffee addicts.

Sarbucks Reserve Roasterydesigner.com

Moving to Seattle

If you're planning on moving to Seattle, locals say there's a few things you should know. First off, it is most definitely overcast the majority of the time, though the rain is rather like a mist. That makes the rare sunny day shine even more, though, locals say, in addition to fostering natural abundance.

The city is generally very congested with traffic, which can be noisy, though it offers great public transportation options, from buses to rail—regardless, you'll want to get an Orca Card for that.

Like every city, Seattle has a number of diverse and charismatic neighborhoods. For example, there's the beachy, more laid-back West Seattle.

West SeattleWest Seattle

There's the vibrant Capitol Hill, a hub of arts, culture, tech bros, and nightlife (during non-COVID times).

There's the historic and artsy Pioneer Square, featuring plenty of museums, shops, galleries, and pubs.

Pioneer Square SeattleExpedia

Fremont is a more bohemian area. Belltown is a trendy waterfront neighborhood that's close to everything.

In general, Seattle residents love the city for its proximity to nature, from beaches to glaciers, and its abundance of arts and cultural attractions. As Kimberly Kinrade said, "Seattle is for people who love culture, but refuse to sacrifice their wild nature to attain it." Residents dislike the steep cost of housing and all things that come from rising prices, including the city's large homeless population.

In general, the city is known as environmentally conscious, liberal, and dog-loving. The people are often referred to as nice but possibly a bit standoffish and cold (the "Seattle Freeze" is when you make plans to hang out and then bail, which is apparently very common). The rain can certainly get depressing, but the proximity to nature helps.

Remember, if you do happen to move: umbrellas are dead giveaways for tourists.


What's your favorite part about Seattle? What did we leave out? Let us know at @thejourniest on Twitter!

Travel

Weed World Candies Exist to Prey on Gullible Tourists

Weed is still illegal in New York, but scamming tourists is not.

You wouldn't know it walking around midtown Manhattan, but marijuana is still illegal in New York.

It does seem strange to think that perhaps the most metropolitan city in the US would be lagging behind so many other parts of the country that have legalized possession, production, and sale of cannabis and THC products, but it's true.

New York's decriminalization of marijuana has led many smokers to be more brazen with their public consumption in recent years, and Governor Cuomo recently announced plans for limited legalization for recreational use at the state level. But for the time being the sale of products containing THC is still very much illegal.

buy happiness You sure about that?

Adding to the confusion is a company that has sprung up to prey on tourist's uncertainty. Weed World trucks have multiplied at a staggering rate since they first started appearing in Midtown and the Village a few years ago. Easily a dozen RVs and vans now line the tourist-dense streets of Manhattan, advertising Girl Scout Cookies and Gorilla Glue, clad in marijuana-leaf decals and occupied by employees who are paid either to be stoned out of their minds, or just to pretend they are.

With eyes nearly in slits and an air of relaxation that suggests that customers are temporary interludes from a permanent nap, they will promise you as much as they can get away with while letting their branding do most of the work. They will sell you four lollipops for $20, which would seem like a great deal if not for the fact that they will not deliver on the strong implication that they'll get you high.

They have a Twitter account where they celebrate the supposed availability of weed and claim to "have New York locked down." They'll even sell you vape cartridges that advise you to "get medicated," and which are packed with potent doses of… flavor?

weed world truck

An employee once assured me that their candies do contain THC—maybe they wouldn't be so brazenly dishonest today—and in a drunken state I coughed up $5 to test that claim. There is a faint weedy taste to their candies, and you may find trace amounts of CBD inside, but that's it. It's a scam. There is no THC. Nothing that will give their customers the experience they're selling.

Worse than the trucks is the Weed World Candies storefront that opened in midtown in 2019. Just walking past you would swear that people were passing a massive blunt inside.

The smell is unmistakable and overpowering, except that it's fake. Whatever chemical fragrance they pumped onto the street, it was not connected to anyone smoking weed. Inside, the psychedelic wall art complemented shelves lined with suggestive candies and boxes emblazoned with pot leaf insignia.

Whatever the venue, they are all too happy to sell you overpriced hemp products and CBD creams and chocolates made to look like nugs. And if you're a tourist, or a moron like me, you might believe the scam long enough to give them money, but nothing they sell will get you high.

weed world store Hiroki Kittaka

The owners of Weed World, Judah Izrael and Bilal Muhammad—who prefers to go by "Dro Man" or "Doctor Dro"—will defend their products by claiming that they serve to promote legalization and decriminalization efforts by normalizing the idea of public sale of marijuana. But at no point in the purchasing process is the illusion that their candies will get you high broken. At no point are their customers offered literature explaining the mission of Weed World.

On their website's FAQs page, there is no mention of THC or its absence from their products, but the first question, "How much should I eat?" is answered, "It's all based on your tolerance but there's no limit." Tolerance for what? Sugar? The company—which originated in Alabama and has spread to cities around the country—mostly seems like a very profitable way to sell candy to gullible adults.

weed world wall art Nicole Mallete

The best thing I can say in their defense is that one of their trucks was recently busted by police in Saraland, Alabama, with products that "tested positive for marijuana." Assuming this isn't a screw up or deliberate frame-job by the police, it's possible that some of the Weed World trucks are using their faux activism as a front for selling actual drugs. If so, that would be the most honest thing about this company. Until that's confirmed, ignore these trucks and maybe just ask a friend for a hookup.