In 2004, the naval manoeuvres of the Majestic Eagle operation off the coast of Fuerteventura left three dead on land. These were not human casualties, but whales, which are common visitors to the Canary Islands. Although whales are occasionally stranded on the beaches of this archipelago, it is likely that the beaching of no less than three animals was caused by a close encounter with an aircraft carrier. One of these goose-beaked whales, also known as Cuvier’s beaked whales, landed on Lanzarote, while two were stranded on Fuerteventura, a little enclave of land inhabited by around 100,000 people.
This mishap is commemorated by the installation of the impressive remains of one of the beasts, which stand by the beach of El Cotillo in the island’s northwest. It not only works as a magnificent artwork, but also teaches visitors about the environmental risks faced by these creatures. “The whale appeared in Majanicho on the 24th of July, 2004,” says the Fuerteventura Council’s Department of the Environment, “and it was put in its present position in September 2015.” Here, with the sea in the background, the skeleton’s full 5.75-metre length can be appreciated. These bones, which once belonged to an adult female of one of the 27 kinds of beaked whale, are intended to inform about the workings of the “delicate marine environment” and form a work of “natural and landscape art”. They are now a site on the Whale Route, which includes five locations with other skeletons situated around Fuerteventura.