Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sperm whales washed up dead on British beaches 'were part of pod which has also lost 12 other members on shorefronts across northern Europe

Huge: This picture of two whales at Skegness show the true scale of the mammals, which dwarf the tiny people standing around them
The four tragic whales found washed up on British beaches are believed to be part of the same all-male group as 12 more found dead around Holland and Germany last week.
British experts say the three males found in Lincolnshire and one in Norfolk are part of a bachelor pod that ventured into the North Sea from deeper water and were unable to feed in shallower depths.
Twelve more sperm whales, also all male, were found washed n or off the coast of the Dutch island of Texel and the German islands of Wangerooge and Helgoland 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.
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Huge: This picture of two whales at Skegness show the true scale of the mammals, which dwarf the tiny people standing around them
More: Another dead sperm whale washed up in Lincolnshire later that day and experts believe there may even be more to come
More: Another dead sperm whale washed up in Lincolnshire later that day and experts believe there may even be more to come
Linked: Today's beaches came just hours after a dead 50ft (14.5m) young adult male sperm whale was beached in Norfolk (pictured), which was was part of a group of six spotted in the Wash at Hunstanton on Friday
Linked: Today's beaches came just hours after a dead 50ft (14.5m) young adult male sperm whale was beached in Norfolk (pictured), which was was part of a group of six spotted in the Wash at Hunstanton on Friday
Tragic: One whale, pictured, was found washed up on its own at Skegness while another two were found together further down the coast
Tragic: One whale, pictured, was found washed up on its own at Skegness while another two were found together further down the coast
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
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
Pictured, the fins of the two giant sperm whales arch up as locals and walkers come by the beach to look at their impressive carcasses
Pictured, the fins of the two giant sperm whales arch up as locals and walkers come by the beach to look at their impressive carcasses
They are believed to be part od 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
They are believed to be part od 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
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.
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
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, GermanyEnormous work: A team of whale experts begin the dissection of two sperm whale carcasses on the pier of the JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, Germany
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. 

 THE TRAGIC END OF GENTLE GIANTS: WHY DO THE SPERM WHALES GET WASHED UP ON OUR SHORES?

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
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 that the reason they were caught in shallow water was down to a lack of food.
He told Sky News: '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.
WHALE FACTS
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.
Gentle giants: Sperm whales, pictured, can grow between 49 to 59ft long and weight up to 45 tonnes
Gentle giants: Sperm whales, pictured, can grow between 49 to 59ft long and weight up to 45 tonnes