Crowds flock to see Hunstanton whale as three more wash up dead on beach in Lincolnshire
17:41 24 January 2016
Three sperm whales found washed up on the beach at Skegness are believed to be members of the same pod as the Hunstanton whale. They have attracted large crowds to the beach.
Two of the 48ft whales were found on the beach near Skegness at around 8.30pm on Saturday and the third was discovered on Sunday morning.
The whales, which are thought to have died at sea, are believed to be from the same pod as the animal that died on Hunstanton beach on Friday, HM Coastguard said.
Richard Johnson, of UK Coastguard, said: “We believe that the three whales at Skegness died at sea and then washed ashore.
“We are advising members of the public to stay away from the beach.
“We have informed the Receiver of Wreck and we are expecting an officer from the Zoological Society of London to attend the scene and carry out tests on the whales.”
Skegness and Chapel St Leonards Coastguard Rescue Teams have cordoned off the area.
The dead animals are believed to have been part of a group of six spotted in The Wash on Friday. The pod has been linked to 12 whales that stranded and died in the Netherlands and Germany earlier this month.
It is unknown where the rest of the pod are.
The deaths are the latest in a string of strandings across the southern North Sea.
Five whales died after they washed ashore on Texel Island, in the Netherlands, two weeks ago. Six more have stranded in Germany in recent weeks.
Dr Peter Evans, director of the Seawatch Foundation, believes the deaths are linked.
“There have been 12 other sperm whales that stranded and died, six in the Netherlands and six in Germany,” he said.
“They were probably all in the same group, quite a big group which are usually adolescent males a few years old.”
Dr Evans said the whales probably swam south through the North Sea looking for food but became disorientated in shallow waters.
“They feed on squid and what’s probably happened is that squid came in and the whales fed upon them but ran out of food,” he said.
“The further south they got the shallower the water gets and when they got to Norfolk, which is very, very shallow, it’s quite difficult to navigate and they tend to lose their way and actually strand.”
Scientists from the Zoological Society of London have removed the Hunstanton whale’s lower jaw bone and teeth, and taken samples of blood and blubber from its carcass, which will now be analysed.
The teeth will enable them to establish the age of the whale and samples may reveal its physical condition before its death.
Rescuers battled in vain to save the 30ft bull on Friday night. Hunstanton lifeboat crew launched their hovercraft and tried to coax the creature back out to sea.
Lifeboat spokesman Geoff Needham said: “This large animal, although still alive and wallowing about, was unable to make for the deeper water. As the tide was dropping away nothing more could be done.
“I understand that the experts were going to monitor it in the hope that it still might be saved. In the last few years we have had about half dozen such strandings in the Wash none have survived, the clean up bill runs into thousands, a very sad end to such a magnificent animal.”
The Hunstanton whale was pronounced dead at around 11pm on Friday and first light on Saturday revealed it had been moved towards Old Hunstanton, washing it onto the rusting remains of a shipwreck close to the cliffs.
The creature was still in situ at first light this morning, as the first sightseers made the long trek along the rocky beach to see it.
Yesterday, the whale is thought to have drawn hundreds of visitors to the resort, despite its relatively remote location.
Some risked being cut off by the tide around the headland where the whale lies, which becomes almost cut off at high water.
The terrain is also likely to hamper attempts to remove the whale, as the spot is almost inaccessible to vehicles.
Brian Long, portfolio holder for the environment with West Norfolk council, said specialist contractors would be called in on Monday.
“It’s a terrible thing, we’d advise the public to keep away from it,” he said. “They do attract a lot of attention, being such big animals, people do flock to look.”
On Friday night, experts from the British Divers Marine Rescue group rushed to the scene, as police and coastguards cordoned off the beach. They were stood down, when it became clear they could not save the creature.
Member Beth Phelps said: “We can’t move it, it’s not in good shape, it’s bleeding a lot. We haven’t got the capacity to euthanase an animal that size. It’s 30ft long and about 20 tonnes.”
As the tide retreated, the whale’s struggles became weaker. First its great tail flukes broke the surface, then its back as it ran out of water.
Its injuries could clearly be seen as the moon rose over the cliff tops, great gashes and wounds gouged by the chalk and carr stone boulders which litter the beach.
Earlier, crowds gathered on the prom to watch the drama as searchlights lit up the sea. News of the whales’ arrival off Hunstanton had spread by social media.
Nigel Croasdale, manager of Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, said: “We received a number of calls from members of the public, saying that they had seen large animals, sharks of whales, along the coast.
“We went out to have a look to see what was going on. We saw at least four individual whales which we believed to be sperm whales swimming around in the shallow water.
“They seemed to be moving slowly. I think at that point, they were finding themselves partially-beached.
“One or two of them appeared to be rolling, as if partially-beached. The tide was still on its way in at that point.”
Peter Naylor, 29, from Old Hunstanton, said: “I saw three myself, but there has been talk that there are four, while I’ve heard the Humber coastguard has reported there could be as many as six.
“When I got down there, there was one which had made its way out into The Wash and there were two very much stuck. The tide was coming in and one of them managed to get away.
“One of them was really stuck and it was still there when I left. It looked like it was really stuck and there’s not a lot anyone can do. It’s a huge whale, it must be about as big as a bus and it looked like it had cut itself up quite badly.”
Lindsay Bird, 24, from Ingoldisthorpe, a frequent walker on the beach, said: “I walk down here two or three times a week and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
On Christmas Eve 2011, a sperm whale washed-up at nearby Old Hunstanton. Thousands flocked to see it.
A warning was issued to visitors urging them not to touch the body, or allow their dogs to contact it directly, as it was decomposing on the sand.
The whale was eventually cut up and taken away to be disposed of in landfill.