Saturday, 23 January 2016

Beached Sperm Whale, Hunstanton

Sometimes we get messages where what we are being told leaves us incredulous but our trust in the sender of the information makes us sit up and pay attention. Friday afternoon I received one such message, a short text from my friend Dave telling me that four Sperm Whales were close inshore at Hunstanton and possibly stuck. 

A quick call to Dave left me little the wiser other than that he was on his way to check out the sighting. A colleague and I hit Google and found several references to a report of Sperm Whales off Hunstanton, weird. Having got confirmation from Dave that there was something in this report I left work a little early and had an urgent drive in traffic from Snettisham to Hunstanton, with nothing more to go on I thought I'd try under the cliffs at the pitch and putt end of the cliffs and wasted valuable time walking the beach on an incoming tide here. Back and the car and with phone reception again I got a message from Dave to head to the Salad Bowl cafe and I arrived here at twilight's last knockings.

Watching the last hours of a Bull Sperm Whale, Hunstanton, Friday 22 January 2016

A crowd was assembled on top of the cliffs and on the promenade below where a search light was focused on the whale. At first I couldn't see the whale until I realised that what I had taken to be a buoy was in fact its bloodied tail. Through my binoculars I could start to make out the line of its back below the surface and every now and again it would exhale a misty breath through its blow hole. It had not been alone another three Sperm Whales and also be in trouble in the shallows but had managed to swim away on the tide. At the time as I watched the tide was peaking and about to start to drain away.
Approaching the dead Sperm Whale, Saturday 23 January 2016
Blood in the rock pools

Later that evening I walked the short way from our house back to the base of the cuffs, I could see lights in the dark of the beach and by the steps down to the beach was a Coastguard truck with flashing lights on and tape across the steps. The Coastguard told me that the beach had been closed to allow the whale some peace and that there were various folk out there trying to help it.

After lunch today and knowing already that the whale had died over night, a pretty predictable if sad turn over events as these great Levianthan can't survive long without water to support their huge body weight. I took number two son [age four] to see the whale [no one son was tired and had seen a previous stranded whale in Hunstanton. The little fella was dead excited and on first seeing the Whales body told me that it was "Huge" and wanted to know why it was dead. He then noticed the red stained water in the rock pools and was fascinated by this. 

ZSL vets perform an autopsy
We were not alone, the whales corpse was taped off and security guards in florescent yellow coast had been on site since 7.30 that morning to guard the corpse [the last whales lower jaw had been chainsawed off so that it teeth could be sold on the black market]. Within the taped area vets from ZSL worked hard carrying out a autopsy in a race against the returning tide and ironically a procedure which also involved removing the whales lower jawbone.
Whilst we were there i doubt if there was ever less than a hundred people gathered around the tape, carrying out a very modern form of animal spirit worship arms held in front of them towards the dead whale and smart phone cameras capturing the essence of its spirit to share with friends.

Paying homage
Capturing the dead Levianthan's spirit
I've been trying to work out if this is my third or fourth dead Sperm Whale in the 16 / 17 years I have lived in Norfolk and I think it is the fourth, I need to double check. Weird how these deep sea cetaceans end up in the shallow waters of the North Sea and then into the Wash?

One for scale

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