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Norfolk's history of washed up whales

PUBLISHED: 13:28 21 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2016

A whale which  washed up on Old Hunstanton Beach. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A whale which washed up on Old Hunstanton Beach. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

Each year an average of 400 to 800 whales, basking sharks, seals, turtles, dolphins and porpoises are stranded along the UK's coastline. As yet another sea creature loses its life on a local beach, we look back at Norfolk's unfortunate history with whales.

The whale washed up on a beach beyond Stiffkey marshes on the north Norfolk coast in 2003.
 Photo: Graham CorneyThe whale washed up on a beach beyond Stiffkey marshes on the north Norfolk coast in 2003. Photo: Graham Corney

• Two whales were washed up along the Norfolk coast back in 2003, one at Terrington Marsh near King’s Lynn in January, and the other at Stiffkey at the beginning of the Easter holidays in April.

• Several whales were discovered in 2004, with one washing up on Thornham beach, another at Eccles-on-Sea and one found at Holme-next-Sea. The latter was helped back into the water by British Divers Marine Life Rescue crews, the others, sadly did not survive.

• In 2005 a dead whale was found on Brancaster beach.

A Sowerby's Beaked Whale at Blakeney Point being rescued by beachgoers in 2009. Photo: Richard PorterA Sowerby's Beaked Whale at Blakeney Point being rescued by beachgoers in 2009. Photo: Richard Porter

• August 2011 saw a sad end for a stranded Sowerby’s beaked whale, which was found in Thornham, near Hunstanton, struggling to move back into the water as the tide went out. This species, rarely sighted in the North Sea, originates from the North Atlantic and the Baltic Seas and the oldest recorded sighting in Norfolk dates back to 1952. Before 2011, one had not been spotted in the county since 2009, when the creature washed up at Blakeney Point and was rescued by kind beachgoers.

• A sperm whale washed up in Norfolk in 2011, settling on the sands at Old Hunstanton beach on Christmas Eve. The huge animal was believed to have died before the tide carried it onto the beach.

• The first ever Killer Whale sighting off Norfolk took place in February 2012. The animal was spotted breaching water off Sheringham by two local bird watchers.

• In 2013 two minke whales were discovered on the Norfolk coast, one on the beach just north of Sea Palling, and the other at Cromer. These two females were believed to have died after sustaining injuries caused by a ship strike.

The 45ft dead male sperm whale attracted lots of visitors to the beach in Old Hunstanton in January 2016. Picture: Ian BurtThe 45ft dead male sperm whale attracted lots of visitors to the beach in Old Hunstanton in January 2016. Picture: Ian Burt

• That same year, a humpback whale was seen swimming off the Norfolk coast and a whale calf sparked a colossal rescue effort when it flopped onto Gorleston beach. Sadly, the creature was suffering greatly and ultimately had to be put down by local vets.

• Another minke whale was found in Norfolk last October at Overstrand beach by early morning dog walkers.

• 2016 has already seen a dead minke whale wash up on Beeston beach, and a mass stranding of the large mammals across the country, as two sperm whales washed up in Hunstanton and four were found near Skegness and Lincolnshire. Experts from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme are still unsure as to what exactly caused these incidents and investigations continue.

• This week another tragedy has struck, as a 40ft fin whale was discovered on Holkham Beach, part of Holkham National Nature Reserve, on the north Norfolk coast. A post mortem is currently being carried out to establish the creature’s cause of death. The public have been warned to stay away from the whale currently at Holkham and to keep dogs in the area on leads.

The fin whale which was has been washed up on the beach between Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham. Picture: Chris BishopThe fin whale which was has been washed up on the beach between Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham. Picture: Chris Bishop

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