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Sperm whales washed up dead on British beaches 'were part of pod …

Sperm whales washed up dead on British beaches ‘were part of pod’ January 25, 2016 News Room1

Security guards are today trying to stop scavengers attacking the corpses of four sperm whales washed up on two British beaches over the weekend as anti-nuclear campaigners graffitied one of their 30-tonne carcasses.

The three 45ft sperm whales found on the sand near Skegness in Lincolnshire yesterday and one under the cliffs at Hunstanton, Norfolk, on Saturday, were part of a pod of at least 16 found dead on beaches all along the North Sea coastline in Britain and northern Europe.

Brian Long, from King s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, said today security guards are needed to stop trophy hunters hacking off body parts.

He said: We don t want to see people scavenging, as it has happened before adding the animal s skin, blubber, teeth and blood will be tested to establish its cause of death before being cut section by section and removed by specialists.

Meanwhile environmentalists sprayed the message Fukushima RIP man killed me and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament logo on one of the Skegness whales as investigators consider why the 16 lost sperm whales from the same pod were all washed up dead on North Sea coastline.

Twelve more sperm whales, believed to be from the same all-male pod, have washed up on the Dutch island of Texel and the German islands of Wangerooge and Helgoland since January 9.

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Clear up: An autopsy is caried out on one of three sperm whales washed up dead near Skegness as guards surround the animals to protect them today

Message: Anti-nuclear campaigners have targeted the corpses over night and graffitied the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament logo on its tail as crowds gathered again at Skegness today

Shameful: One person sprayed the message Fukushima RIP man killed me on a Lincolnshire whale as guards were brought in to stop trophy hunters slicing off parts of the dead whales

Majestic: The four dead washed up in the UK are believed to be part of a 16-strong pos who have all been found dead on beaches all over Europe

Tragedy: It is believed that the whales entered the North Sea from deeper water near Norway but they are trying to work out how 16 ended up dead in Skegness and Hunstanton in the UK after another 12 ended up dead along the Dutch and German coastline

Experts are still unsure why so many in the pod have died, with some suggesting that they starved to death after chasing their favourite food, squid, into shallower waters and getting beached.

Environmentalists say submarines cause whale deaths by blasting them with sonar, which can disorientate or even deafen them, and there are claims a Russian submarine has been working in North Sea waters near Scotland in recent weeks.

This could have confused the pod and seen them panic and split up before ending up lost and stuck in shallow North Sea waters it s impossible to escape from.

Researchers at the University of St Andrews have previously said that the noise made by offshore wind farms can interfere with a whale s sonar, and can in tragic cases see them driven onto beaches where they often die.


The distinctive box-like heads are the largest of any animal

Also the largest brain of any creature to have lived on Earth

They can dive as deep as 10,000ft in search of squid to eat but average dives are 4,000ft

The mammals hold their breath for up to 90 minutes on the long dives

They eat around one tonne of fish per day

Their heads hold large quantities of a substance called spermaceti, the purpose of which is unknown

A sperm whale s life expectancy is 50 to 70 years.

The four tragic whales found washed up on British beaches make up the average number of whale deaths in the UK in a year.

They are believed to be part of the same all-male group as 12 more found dead around Holland and Germany last week.

Pods can include more than 20 of the 30-tonne animals, and it is believed that all of them may die after venturing into a stretch of water that is almost impossible to escape without going back the way they came.

Experts from the Zoological Society of London say that this is a common mistake, but a mass stranding of this scale hasn t happened in decades.

Rob Deaville, manager of a Defra-funded organisation that investigates strandings, said his team will be doing the post-mortems on the 14-metre animals to find out more about how they died and their lives.

After their death, bacteria and gases built up in side the whale and they can explode if they are not cut open.

Mr Deaville described them as highly intelligent and social animals, which is why they travel together, leaving them more prone to dying en mass.

He added: Historically, strandings in the North Sea are not uncommon and we already have a good idea why they may have died, although hope to find out more tomorrow.

While this event is tragic, it will also give us a rare opportunity to learn more about these animals and how they live, as they spend most of their time in the depths so opportunities like this are rare.

Scientists wearing high-visibility jackets used a chainsaw to cut up one of the 30-tonne mammals in Skegness today as they began the autopsy.

Eyewitnesses on the beach said one of the carcasses even exploded during an examination by scientists.

Tracey Bishell, from Skegness, said: It s awful and it s shocking. How did they get here? For three of them to be washed up is awful.

I didn t realise until this morning when I came down how bad it was.

It s tragic, it really is.

Deborah Holden, from Wragby, Lincolnshire, said: It s bad enough having one wash up, but for three of them to beach in Skegness is terrible.

And when two of them are babies it makes it even worse. It s been very hard to watch.

Huge: This picture of two whales at Skegness show the true scale of the mammals, which dwarf the tiny people standing around them as it emerged security is now needed to deal with the huge crowds, believed to include scavengers

Beached: A further two whales, pictured, were washed up south of the town after, it is believed, their pod got into trouble just off the coast

Tragic: This bull whale died after swimming into shallows and getting caught on rocks for hours at Hunstanton in Norfolk it thrashed on the rocky shore causing massive gashes which led to him bleeding extensively into the sea

Concerning: The whales being beached at Skegness meant that four of the mammals had been washed up in a matter of just hours

Photo: Curious locals flocked to the beach to look at the dead whales and some even took time to pose for a selfie next to their carcasses

Scientists from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, who investigate all whale, dolphin and porpoise strandings in the UK, took samples from the carcasses.

Hundreds of onlookers flocked to the beach in Skegness over the weekend to see the three whales with some even taking selfies with the carcasses in the background.

Today the local council said initial tests had confirmed they were already dead when they were washed ashore.

A spokesman from East Lindsey District Council said: The council is working with HM Coastguard and the Zoological Society, with the society undertaking a post mortem examination on the carcasses.

It has been confirmed that the whales were dead when they came ashore.


There are a number of theories about why the 16 whales may have been split up and died:

Hunger? The most likely reason for the deaths is that they were short of food and may have gone searching for squid or fish in dangerous shallower water

Submarine? Sonar from submarines can confuse or even deafen whales, according to environmentalists, and if they were spooked by one the pod may have panicked and split up

Wind farms? Researchers at the University of St Andrews have found that the noise made by offshore wind farms can interfere with a whale s sonar, and can in tragic cases see them driven onto beaches where they often die.

It is also believed the whales are from the same pod as the one recently stranded at Norfolk and there are possible links to strandings in Germany and the Netherlands in recent weeks.

The local council now has to wait until permission is granted before the whales can be cut up and removed from the beach.

The spokesperson added: The council has well rehearsed plans for dealing with such situations, having dealt with a number of strandings in recent years, the most recent being in 2012, when a sperm whale weighing around 30 tonnes was beached just north of Skegness Pier.

Whilst it is understandable that people wish to view the whales, those doing so are asked to not go through the cordon to touch them.

The council will dispose of their bodies as soon as the relevant permissions are in place.

Three of the whales were found on the Lincolnshire coast yesterday morning, just hours after another was found stranded at Hunstanton in Norfolk.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution s (RNLI) Skegness base tweeted a picture of one of the whales after it was carried ashore with the 6.30am tide.

Later, another two whales were found washed up south of the town after their pod got into difficulty in the Wash, which is notorious for its low tides.

On Friday a 45ft-long whale was left stranded on rocks at Hunstanton and despite attempts by rescuers the 30-tonne mammal sadly died the following day.

Discussing the whales found at Skegness, RNLI crewman Adam Holmes said: It s very sad to see such magnificent beasts washed up and passed their best on the shore.

One whale was very similar to the one washed up at Hunstanton on Saturday and we think these were the other whales spotted with it.

They got into trouble in The Wash which is very shallow water and extremely difficult to navigate. Once they re trapped in there there s very little we can do.

If they get washed out to sea then they can become a hazard for boats and then the Coastguard and Maritime Agency will get involved.

The whales found on the East Frisian island of Wangerooge were both male and believed to weigh about 18 tons each.

The whales discovered further north, off of the coast of Heligoland, have been taken to Nordstrand, Germany, close to the border with Denmark.

Gruesome photos from the scene showed that the animals were already shrivelling with their skins peeling away.

The whales that were beached off the coast of Texel island on Tuesday were dissected in situ, leaving a grisly trail of entrails.

Marian Bestelink, a spokeswoman for the ministry of economic affairs, said: Experts found that the whales died during the night.

We are going to investigate why they beached and then we will remove them, Bestelink said, adding that the process would probably take several days.

Experts said the beached whales had already been badly injured and their chances of survival were poor.

Volunteers tried to save them but called off their efforts late in the night because of bad weather and darkness.

In Britain, as soon as word spread of stranded whales people flocked to the beach to stare at the impressive creatures.

Some onlookers even took photos and selfies with their friends as others just looked on solemnly.

The next move will be to remove the carcasses but details of the clean-up operation have yet to be announced.

Examined: Dutch whale experts, Aart Walen (left) and Michael von Leeuwen (right), began the dissection of two sperm whale carcasses on the pier of the JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Enormous work: A team of whale experts begin the dissection of two sperm whale carcasses on the pier of the JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, Germany

They are believed to be part of a larger pod, after twelve more were found dead around Germany and Holland.

One of two sperm whales that stranded at the island Wangerooge is lifted with a crane in Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany


Shallow waters can be fatal for whales and the North Sea is a common problem for groups, says Rob Deaville (pictured), manager of the Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme

Sperm whales are social and intelligent creatures that are perfectly designed to live at the deepest depths of the ocean.

But a trip to shallow waters can prove fatal for the specialised mammals, and the North Sea is a common problem for groups, says Rob Deaville, who manages Britain s Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme (CSIP).

He explained how whales use sonar to communicate and navigate over thousands of miles, but it does not function properly in shallow water.

Their way of feeding is also designed for deep water, so in the shallow sea around Britain and parts of northern Europe, they cannot eat or take on water.

And Mr Deaville, whose project is funded by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that the North Sea is a common problem for whales, as the depth changes very quickly.

He said: Historically, large whale strandings are not uncommon in the North Sea, on shores around Britain, Germany and Holland.

Around 600 whales, dolphins and porpoises are found every year on Britain s coastlines, but we haven t had one this large for decades.

There is a huge drop-off point to the north west of Scotland, where the depth changes very dramatically, and once whales pass that point, it is very difficult to get back into deep water.

Unless they go back the way the came, there is nowhere for them to pass into deeper ocean as they cannot pass the channel.

They are used to using their sonar at lower depths so it is harder for them to read in the shallows, which is another reason they struggle to escape.

The North Sea is also quite an industrial area, with ships, oil rigs and renewables, so that adds to the difficulty for them.

The whales cannot feed and their only way of taking on water is through the feeding process, so they quickly become very dehydrated and die.

Whales are highly social and intelligent so they move together, which is why it is quite common that more than one is washed up.

Dr Peter Evans from the Seawatch Foundation believes the dead mammals are linked to a pod seen operating off continental Europe and they died in shallow water down to a lack of food.

He told Sky News2: There have been 12 other sperm whales that stranded and died, six in the Netherlands and six in Germany.

They were probably all in the same group, quite a big group which are usually adolescent males a few years old.

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.

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.

It is also believed that sonar used by the navy can disrupt the whales sense of direction and it is believed that the navy was recently looking into rumours that a Russian submarine was operating close to the Scottish coast.


Sperm whales are carnivore mammals that can grow to between 49 to 59 ft-long and weigh up to 45 tonnes.They are often spotted in pods of 15-20 which include females and their young, while males swim alone.

Sperm whales can dive up to 3,280ft (1,000m) but this requires them to hold their breath for up to 90 minutes. They eat thousands of fish a day and their daily intake can clock up to about one tonne.

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