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Whale stranded at Hunstanton beach

PUBLISHED: 19:59 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:07 23 January 2016

A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs, with emergency services trying to save it. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs, with emergency services trying to save it. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

A whale, believed to be a sperm whale, has become stranded close to the cliffs at Hunstanton.

Hunstanton RNLI hovercraft was sent to the scene, while coastguards cordoned off the beach.

Four whales were seen swimming off Hunstanton Beach this afternoon. While three of the animals were seen to swim out to deeper water, one turned towards the cliffs, near the North Promenade.

But as high water came and the tide turned, the animal became stranded on the rocks. The whale could be seen thrashing around in the shallows as the water receded.

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 or 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.

Sperm whale facts

The sperm whale is the largest toothed animal in the world

It is named after the milky-white substance spermaceti 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 hole on their head 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 give birth every four to six years

Males 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

“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.”

Mr Croasdale said three of the whales managed to swim back out towards deeper water, but one headed towards the shore.

Experts from the British Marine Divers Rescue group went to the scene, along with police and coastguards.

A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs, with emergency services trying to save it. Picture: Matthew Usher.A sperm whale is stranded on Hunstanton Beach near the cliffs, with emergency services trying to save it. Picture: Matthew Usher.

As of 8pm, the whale, which is understood to be about 30ft long. weighing 20 tonnes, was still stuck and experts were trying to decide what action to take.

An eyewitness earlier said there were initially three whales, and possibly four. He said, while one which had looked to be stranded managed to get back to sea, another of the whales remained stuck.

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.

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.

“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.

“There’s a big crowd of people there and the mood is quite light-hearted, but it’s not looking good for the one which is stuck.”

On Christmas Eve in 2011, a sperm whale washed-up close to the cliff-top car park at Old Hunstanton.

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 Health Protection Agency and Food Standards Agency also issued a joint statement which also warned watersport participants to stay away.

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