Scientists begin post mortem on dead sperm whale at Old Hunstanton
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Experts were on the beach at low tide on Friday to take samples from the sperm whale which has died at Old Hunstanton.
The 45ft male sperm whale became stranded around a mile north of the Le Strange Arms yesterday morning. It failed to swim away on the high tide and was pronounced dead last night.
This morning, coastguards placed a cordon around the animal, as scientists from the London Zoological society took samples.
The whale is one of 29 to have stranded in recent weeks, as far afield as Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Germany, Holland and France. All are believed to have been part of the same pod of young males which came into the North Sea looking for food.
Marine biologist Rob Deaville said rings on the whale’s teeth would reveal its age, while blubber and blood samples could indicate the presence of contaminants.
“We’ll be carrying our an examination and collecting what we can. We’re limited by the tide,” he said.
“We’re trying to learn more about not how it died, we’re trying to find out why these sperm whales have come into the North Sea in the first place.”
TV naturalist Nick Baker, who is making a documentary about the strandings, said: “There’s lots of theories flying around, it’s hazardous to make a guess at this stage.”
As scientists donned white suits and set to work, a steady stream of sightseers braved the strong winds to see the whale, which has stranded off a section of beach owned by the Le Strange Estate. Tradition dictates the family may lay claim to anything located on the beach or in the sea for “as far as a man riding a horse can throw a spear”.
Land agent Jonathan Prior, who did not bring a spear, said: “At this stage, we’re looking at the options. It’s a bit of a big thing to put on a wheelbarrow.”
The carcass of another whale, which washed up two miles away on Hunstanton Beach two weeks ago, was taken away to be incinerated.
Specialist contractors were called in to remove it by West Norfolk council, which picked up the £15,000 bill for the clean-up operation.
Today a council spokesman said: “The whale is not on council land, however, the borough council has offered advice and support to the landowner, who is liaising with the relevant agencies in respect of the removal and disposal of the whale. The council will continue to monitor the situation and issue further advice if necessary.”
The council said people should not touch the whale or allow dogs to come into contact with it and shellfish in the area should not be collected for personal consumption.
It added water sports enthusiasts including bathers should be aware that water quality could be affected and if you become unwell after using the water please seek medical advice.