Yesterday’s saddest news was that given by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue of a stranded whale on a hard to access area on the south side of the Helford Estuary in Cornwall. This comes from their Facebook page (where donations welcome to help their amazing work).
The animal had been seen swimming nearby during the morning by the Clean Ocean Sailing crew, who were also the people who later discovered it stranded on the shore, and were able to reach it to provide assistance.
It was confirmed to be a fin whale. It was stranded high up the rocky beach, which had caused numerous superficial injuries all over its body and there was evidence that it must have rolled over at some point after it had become stuck. There were also a number of more concerning injuries where the weight and movement of the animal had caused deeper wounds, especially around the tail where it had been thrashing and beating its flukes on the rocks, creating a horrific noise like thunder. It was also in very poor nutritional condition, which means that it had not been feeding for quite some time.
Medics quickly noticed just after they arrived that the animal appeared to be in its death throes, opening the mouth wide and holding the tail up at the same time, and had stopped breathing. Eye reflexes were tested, and no longer responded after about half an hour, by which time our Veterinary Support Coordinator Natalie Waddington had arrived and confirmed that it had passed away.
Our team liaised with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and were supported on scene by a member of Porthoustock Coastguard Team for health and safety.
At this point the incident was handed over to our colleagues at the Cornwall Wildlife TrustMarine Strandings Network and Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- UK strandings to lead with, liaising with the Receiver of Wreck and landowners to secure a post mortem examination, which may tell us more about why this animal had come to be this way.
We would like to thank everyone involved in this harrowing incident, including our volunteers, local members of the public, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Porthoustock Coastguard Team, local landowners for their kind permission to park closer to and gain access to the site, and the team at Clean Ocean Sailing for their efforts and reporting it to us.
Photos: Helen Chadwick and Dan Jarvis.
Today, Devon & Cornwall Police warn people not to go seeking views of the whale:
Members of the public are advised not to attend the privately-owned beach, due to the possibility the road network could become severely congested, causing long delays in the locale.
Consideration should also be given to the safety aspects surrounding the rapid decomposition of the whale’s body.