Sperm whales beached in England: what happened?
Last week, three sperm whales were found washed up on the Lincolnshire coast, two at Gibraltar Point and another in nearby Skegness, only days after another was found on a beach in Norfolk; a fifth was later found at Wainfleet. Twelve more carcasses (thought to be from the same pod) were also discovered on beaches in the Netherlands and Germany.
An extraordinary event that made people think of another environmental and biodiversity disaster: messages were spray-painted on the dead whales’ bodies, saying ‘Mans Fault’ [sic], ‘CND’ (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and referencing ‘Fukushima’ – the stricken Japanese nuclear power station.
What really happened to the whales?
Dr Peter Evans, director of the Sea Watch Foundation, explained “Sadly, this kind of thing happens periodically as sperm whales congregate in social cohesive groups, which we call pods, and can often strand together. They feed principally on squid and what has probably happened is that one or more shoals of squid have entered the North Sea from the Atlantic and the whales followed them, fed upon them, and then maybe ran out of food.”
Sperm whales quickly run into trouble if they enter the North Sea around the UK because the water is so shallow, and the navigational sound pulses they send out don’t bounce back well in the shallow waters so the whales quickly become disorientated.
Overnight on 28th January, a team of 14 workers removed the 30-tonne animals, in a process that took just over five hours.