Experts carry out autopsy on Lynmouth whale

Joseph Bulmer

Scientists work into the night to determine how 55ft ocean giant died

SCIENTISTS have carried out a post mortem on a rare giant whale that was washed up on a beach in Lynmouth.

Marine experts from the Institute of Zoology, the research division of the Zoological Society of London, worked until late last night (Tuesday) to try and determine how the 55ft fin whale died.

The mammal is believed to have been dead for a day or two but the team is expected to announce its preliminary findings later today.

The whale – the world’s second largest animal after the blue whale – was discovered on a pebble beach by a holidaymaker close to the seafront car park early yesterday morning.

Fin whales are globally-endangered species and can grow to lengths of up to 85ft and weigh up to 80 tonnes. They are most common in the southern hemisphere but smaller populations have been known to inhabit the North Atlantic.

The coastguard and other maritime agencies have advised people to stay away from the animal due to the threat of disease.

A Swansea-based spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency told the Gazette that responsibility for removal of the carcass now rested with the local authority.

A spokesperson for North Devon Council said the council was investigating a number of options but it was unlikely that the whale would be removed today.

She said: “We’ve been up to the site and examined the situation and the coastguard has moored the whale to the headland to stop it from being picked up again by the tide.

“We are looking at a number of options to remove the animal but the location of the whale and Lynmouth being where it is has created its own difficulties.”

Diana Hill, the council’s head of property and technical services, added: “We are currently in consultation with various agencies on how best to remove the whale.

“We are proposing to tow the carcass off the beach and to land it at a secure location, where it will be put on a low-loader vehicle and disposed of according to the necessary licensed regulations.”

Keep checking the Gazette website for further updates.