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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The death of one of nature's giants: 55ft-long fin whale dies after lying stranded on beach

By Daily Mail Reporter

A giant rare whale has washed up on a beach at a British beauty spot.

The 55ft fin whale - the world's second largest animal and a globally-endangered species - washed ashore at Lynmouth, Devon.

Swansea Coastguard received a call around 8.30am today saying the animal had been marooned on the pebble beach at Lynmouth, close to the Cliff Railway.

Tragic ending: A giant fin whale washed ashore at Lynmouth, Devon, and is believed to have been dead for a day or two

A Lynmouth coastguard source told the Journal the animal had been dead for a day or two.

Lynmouth coastguards are currently in talks with Swansea coastguards about how best to remove the animal.

The fin whale is the second largest animal after the blue whale. It can grow to lengths of up to 85ft and weigh up to 80 tonnes.

Fin whales are most common in the southern hemisphere but smaller populations have been known to inhabit the North Atlantic.

Friendly giant: The 55ft fin whale is the world's second largest animal and a globally-endangered species

Visitor Peter Osborne, from Wimborne in Dorset, discovered the whale when he arrived at the resort's seafront car park, under Holladay Hill, to do some early morning fishing.

He contacted the Lynmouth Coastguard Station but when staff arrived, the whale was found to be dead.

Among the first people on the scene were Andy Cleverdon, former Station Officer at Lynmouth Coastguard Station and Heidi Fargher-Harding, wife of the current station officer David Harding, are both medics with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue organisation.

Weighty: The fin whale (one pictured here in Alaska) can grow to lengths of up to 85ft and weigh up to 80 tonnes when fully grown

Andy said: ‘I have looked at the records over the years and I am pretty sure that this is the first stranding of a whale for more than 20 years on the Lynmouth beaches and rocks.

‘It is difficult to tell whether the whale was still alive or already dead when it became stranded.

‘We were able to identify it through certain characteristics and the first thoughts were that it was a female, but it was fairly battered through the contact with the rocks.

‘It was a sad sight.~ Andy Cleverdon added that contact had been made with the National History Museum and there was a possibility of a post-mortem being carried out on the spot if a team had been able to reach the site before the morning tide.

There were some fears that the tide and the prevailing wind might carry the dead whale onto the section of beach close to Lynmouth's harbour and jetty.

A spokesman for British Marine Life Divers Rescue, which attended the fin whale stranding, said efforts would be made to find the cause of death.

He said: ‘High tide is around 5pm so it doesn't leave too much time for an investigation.

‘It will be down to the local council to dispose of the carcass.

‘It must be removed from or tethered to the beach as it could be a hazard to shipping it floats out to sea.

‘There's a sizeable population of fin whales that live off the coast of Pembrokeshire - it could have been a member of that group.’



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