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Crowds flock to see Hunstanton whale as three more wash up dead on beach in Lincolnshire

The dead young adult male sperm whale beached in Norfolk, which was was part of a group of six spotted in the Wash at Hunstanton on Friday. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The dead young adult male sperm whale beached in Norfolk, which was was part of a group of six spotted in the Wash at Hunstanton on Friday. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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.

Crowds gather around the whale at Hunstanton on Sunday. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA WireCrowds gather around the whale at Hunstanton on Sunday. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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 sperm whale stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs. Picture: Matthew Usher.The sperm whale stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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.

Emergency services discuss what action to take. Picture: Matthew Usher.Emergency services discuss what action to take. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“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.”

A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs. Picture: Matthew Usher.A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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.

Sightseers flocked to Hunstanton to see the stranded whale. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA WireSightseers flocked to Hunstanton to see the stranded whale. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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.

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19 comments

  • I am an avid believer in the bounties and resources of this marvellous land, I run a few groups teaching, sharing finds and information on foraging and rural crafts. So it was with respect that I ventured down to Hunstanton beach. I am touched that so many of us want to encounter these mysteries of the deep. No one killed this magnificent creature but many are appalled at the thought of utilising it. Much like roadkill in many ways. It is my opinion that respect is to use the animal to it's fullest in it's death. We Disneyfy certain animals and yet slaughter countless others in factory farms. Realistically buying meat means we gain no understanding of what it is to take it's life and what it means to process the body before we consume it. We just enjoy our fish n chips or roast beef :) It's thought this pod were starving or full of plastics so perhaps it is 'Man's fault' Fascination and appreciation brought 1000s of us to see these huge corpses. I don't believe 'trophy hunter scavengers' foragers should be condemned. The whole town would've been out there once to utilise this bounty. It's sad that we are so far removed from ourselves in Nature today. The number of children that have never made a campfire or climbed a tree! The amount of waste where once we fixed things, built things, appreciated the World around us... This animal is 'waste' thrown in landfill to go with the other tons. That, is a stunning portrayal of how distant we've grown nowadays and a bloody shame.

    Report this comment

    FindersKeepersUK

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016

  • I doubt very much that most people who are going to look at the whale are doing so for "ghoulish" reasons. I'm sure most are going because they have a fascination for whales and this is a rare opportunity to see one close up and appreciate their true scale. So long as people are being safe and not getting in the way of the clear up operation then where's the harm? If it were closer to us and in an easy location to access then I expect I would go and look too.

    Report this comment

    Cyril the Canary

    Monday, January 25, 2016

  • Probably full of plastic bags like the ones that got washed up in Holland were.

    Report this comment

    spark

    Monday, January 25, 2016

  • I have been researching and protesting about the Faroe Island since I was 17! I am lucky enough to have swam with a Dolphin in the wild in the Bahammas and an amazing trip out at cape cod with a research crew where a whale swam right under our boat. The video with this article is so sad to watch, but could be useful as it shows that the fin is clearly bent over at the top indicating an illness. Which is another reason that the ghoulish tourists should stay away.

    Report this comment

    Victoria Bailey

    Monday, January 25, 2016

  • Why can't people just stay away as requested by the Coastguard instead of being so pig headed and ignoring the advice of those in the know.

    Report this comment

    Steve02

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • """Johnny Norfolk: There are now so many whales we are going to see far more of this. It could be time to start hunting again for some types to keep the line healthy.""" I HOPE you're trolling!!!

    Report this comment

    catharthis

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • Local man makes fortune selling pen knives to Japanese tourists ?

    Report this comment

    cal

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • It is one thing to correct someone, including a journalist if they make a mistake. We all make them. But the alternative, as Johnny Norfolk laughingly illustrates is unforgivable. For once, Archant gets it right. A group of whales is a pod. Not a school. Fish travel in schools. Whales in pods. Idiot.

    Report this comment

    Tom Jeffries

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • Its a " School" of whales by the way. There are now so many whales we are going to see far more of this. It could be time to start hunting again for some types to keep the line healthy.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • The rocks at the base of the cliffs are helping to prevent erosion. Of course we will recall the stranding of numbers of octopus on the same coast line a few weeks ago so the following food explanation makes sense. However I suggest we all spend this afternoon looking on line to see what research has been done in the UK and Europe into the effect of offshore wind farms on cetaceans . It is impossible to believe that great banks of wind turbines with bases in the sea are not creating widespread vibrations which may affect whales, especially when they are in close proximity. One wonders also whether the shallow water compounds the problem, but not being a physicist I could not say.The offshore oil and gas industry has long had obligations placed upon it in respect of cetaceans and one wonders if the wind energy industry has been obliged to prove in advance that their operations would do no harm.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • Rachael Stanley, firstly no you cannot distribute whale meat to food banks as it is very high in mercury, and a large intake of mercury causes severe neurological disorders and eventually death. May I suggest that you take a look at the Sea Shepherd website, especially when they are present in the Faroe Islands during their drives of the Pilot Whales. I would also encourage people to take a look at The Cove and Blackfish on YouTube as its a very good insight to what really happens to our magnificent cetaceans. The local councils will dispose of the dead Whales as they see fit, and if scientists take certain samples, good on them as we still know very little about these creatures. If others feel the need to steal teethbone from these Whales without permission then they should be punished, especially when you wouldn't rob a human grave site.

    Report this comment

    Kat Perkins

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • Wo there Rachael take a breath. In principal, I don't have issue with people eating dead whale meat, except for the fact that we don't live in the Faroe Islands or Greenland. If the thing was carved up and fed to those in need, imagine what would happen if someone got food poisoning. As for the collecting of teeth, were that to hit the headlines, we might find that the whole county was being compared to that idiot dentist who shot the lion. To some, and possibly many, the whale is a spiritual beast, something noble, even ancient, and therefore deserving of dignity and respect, God forbid that anyone should chose to blast it to smithereens. Someone somewhere will know how these things are done; occasionally authority has its uses.. I for what its worth, will put Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride on the turntable.

    Report this comment

    Bill Punton's bald patch

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

  • I don't see any reason why people can't collect its teeth as souvenirs as long as we remain vigilant in protecting living animals. And why not distribute the whale meat to food banks? It's surely edible.

    Report this comment

    Rachael Stanley

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • rusting remains of a shipwreck .... looks like a tip that beach there. No wonder, a whale doesn't stand a chance there. Maybe the council could do something about it?

    Report this comment

    Renata Hay

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • rusting remains of a shipwreck .... looks like a tip that beach there. No wonder, a whale doesn't stand a chance there. Maybe the council could do something about it?

    Report this comment

    Renata Hay

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • Adam Turner. The loose fallen rocks at the foot of the cliff helps slow down erosion & the most of the green weed covered rock are bed rock where the water has eroded the softer stone & left the harder stone. The cliffs at Hunstanton provide valuable nesting for a Fulmer colony since the mid 60's, so anything that damages the cliffs would also damage the colony.

    Report this comment

    el84

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • A sad event for such a lovely animal. At least they shouldn't use dynamite to dispose of it. That lesson was learnt a long time ago. I would have thought the skull should be preserved and kept for display at the Sealife Centre or similar.

    Report this comment

    Resident Smith

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • I think the council should invest some money in moving these rocks close to the cliffs so this doesn't happen again. If they don't help like I think they won't, then we need to start raising some money for this to happen.

    Report this comment

    Adam Turner

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • A sad day, poor thing. I hope West Norfolk council will not do their usual hazard to the public nonsense and allow research bodies or interested parties the time to get the body away if they want And if not , that they will leave it on the beach so that the public have a chance to view and appreciate the beauty and the plight of the whales. OK it might stink, but it is winter and how often do we get a chance to see a whale like this. It should be of interest to us all, to those who know the history of the whale trade of the Greenland Fishery in Kings Lynn ( and to those who should) to children learning about the necessity to save the whales from the greedy who would kill them and from marine pollution. I say leave it where it is for as long as feasible to remind us and let it wash into the sea to feed the food chain instead of carting it away to landfill.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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