Volunteers fail to save 15-ton sperm whale beached on sandbank
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
23rd March 2004
Rescuers were unable to save a 36ft long, 15-ton sperm whale stranded in the shallow waters of the Wash at the weekend.
The whale, thought to be a young adult, died after two attempts by volunteers failed to shift it into deeper water from a sandbank off the Lincolnshire coast. It was too large and heavy for the rescuers to move. As the tide went out yesterday morning and left it high and dry again the whale is thought to have been crushed by its unsupported body weight.
Rescue attempts were led by volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), a national network of people trained in helping stranded marine mammals, which is now more than 2,000 strong. Officers from the coastguard, the lifeboat service and the RSPCA helped. Tony Woodley, a BDMLR spokesman, said: "This was a very large animal indeed, a massive beastie. They tried very hard, and it's very sad."
Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales (the half of the whale family which includes dolphins) and can weigh up to 18 tons. In the 19th century they were much prized by whalers because of the quantity and quality of their oil.
The animal that died yesterday was the third one to be stranded on the coastline of East Anglia in a year (the other two were found dead). Strandings can be caused by illness, injury or failure of navigation. The Zoological Society of London was sending veterinary pathologists to make a post-mortem examination.