Dead whale attracts crowds at Old Hunstanton beach

PUBLISHED: 17:30 29 December 2011 | UPDATED: 11:30 30 December 2011

Picture: Ian Burt

Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2011

Crowds brave bitter weather to take a look at sperm whale which washed up in Norfolk on Christmas Eve

Sperm whale facts

The sperm whale is the largest toothed-animal in the world

It is named after the milky-white substance sperm aceti found in its head

They have very large heads which in a male can be up to a third of the size of the whole animal

Its brain is the largest and heaviest of all animals - weighing an average 7kg in grown males

They breathe through a spout hole on their head an average of three to five times a minute at rest and the blow created when they breathe can reach 50 feet above the sea

Females have a gestation period of at least 12 months and can give birth every four to six years

Males are only reach their full size at 50 years old and can live up to 80

They have been recorded diving for up to two hours - but the average is 30 to 45 minutes

It might not be everyone’s idea of a great day out for sight-seeing, but violent hail showers and blustery winds did not stop crowds arriving in Old Hunstanton to look at a dead whale yesterday.

The body of the sperm whale, washed-up close to the cliff-top car park at Old Hunstanton, has proved to be a ghoulish tourist attraction over the Christmas holidays.

Despite appalling weather yesterday afternoon there was a steady procession of visitors taking a closer look at the whale which washed-up on Christmas Eve and remains high up the beach.

Although believed to have been dead for some time and decomposing, children were taken to see the whale and have their picture snapped close to it.

Large crowds arrived to see the animal, which is near the high tide mark, close to the Lifeboat Station and LeStrange Arms, when it first appeared on Saturday and there are no signs of interest abating.

Whales are occasionally found dead on beaches around The Wash and it is thought the sperm whale had died at sea before being washed-up with a large gash running along its belly.

A spokesman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said it may have been the same whale which had been seen dead on the RAF’s bombing range on the other side of the estuary, at Holbeach, some weeks ago.

Scientists from the Zoological Society have already taken samples from the animal.

It is believed that the remains will have to be removed from the beach as the body is now too high up to be washed back into the sea by the current tides. It cannot be buried where it is and will probably be taken to a landfill site by contractors.

Mr Geoff Needham, spokesman for the local RNLI, said he had seen coaches arrive over the last few days with people wanting to see the animal.

“I suppose we are used to it, but for a lot of people it is the only chance they will have to see a whale so there has been a lot of interest in it,” he said.

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