Coastguard and sealife experts are helping a 14m sperm whale that is alive and stranded on the beach at Hunstanton in Norfolk.
Councillor Kate Dunbar says people are pouring water on the mammal to try to make it comfortable, but the high tide is not expected until about 2pm.
"They've used a digger and dug a hole in the sand, the water has been welling in it and people have been back and forth with buckets of water to pour over the whale to make it more comfortable. It's a very sad sight," Ms Dunbar told Sky.
"The tide is about 40ft away perhaps. I think it's on the turn, on its way back... I think the high tide is about two-ish this afternoon... It's probably going to be too shallow for it to swim away safely."
The whale has been cordoned off. Pic: Jacob Morris
"They're erecting posts and tape to keep people at a safe distance," she added.
The mammal was spotted around 7.30am and the beach has been closed to the public.
Sealife centre manager Nigel Croasdale called the beaching "heartbreaking" and said he was not expecting a happy outcome.