Race to remove 40ft whale washed up on beach 'before it explodes'

Race to remove 40ft minke whale that washed up onto British beach ‘before it explodes’

  • The sea creature washed up on beach in South Gare, Redcar, on Tuesday night
  • Experts fear the sunlight will increase pressure and cause carcass to explode
  • Dog walkers urged to stay away as smell of corpse may attract aggressive seals

The race is on to remove a washed-up minke whale from an English beach ‘before it explodes’.

It comes after the 40ft mammal was spotted by a walker on the shore near a windfarm in South Gare, Redcar on Tuesday evening.

Experts have been called to the scene to begin preparations for the sea mammal’s removal. 

When any whale washes up on a beach, it is only a matter of time before they explode, sending their guts flying across the shoreline.  

Emergency services cordon off the whale which is feared could explode on a Redcar beach due to the heat of the sun

The minke whale is believed to measure up to 40ft and is usually seen in the North Sea

Colin Stonehouse, a member of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said: ‘When I arrived I checked to see if it was alive, but it was already deceased, so we’re going to take it in. 

‘We need to pull it back, take some data and find its cause of death.’

He added that while the North Sea would be its natural habitat it’s not unusual for whales to come close to the shore. 

He added: ‘It could be navigation problems, there’s a lot of bruising on it. 

‘It’s female, a juvenile going towards adult, but I’d need to measure its length to get a precise age.’

Why do dead animals explode? 

When an animal dies, bacteria inside the carcass produce methane as part of the decomposition process. 

If this is not let out of the body gradually it builds up, exploding at the first opportunity. 

Whales are the most extreme because their huge size makes the consequences of a gas build-up so much greater. 

Living toads in Hamburg, Germany, started spontaneously combusting in 2005. It was thought that crows were picking out their livers, leaving a hole, so when the toads puffed themselves as a defence mechanism, their whole bodies burst. 

And Royal funeral attendants hurriedly drilled a hole in the coffin of overweight English King George IV to let out gases – after an apparent botched embalming job.  

Mr Stonehouse was in talks with Redcar & Cleveland Council and was waiting for them to confirm when to remove the whale from the water.

He added: ‘The sunlight will cause pressure to build up and it will explode, probably this afternoon.

‘We need to keep dogs away, if seals come onto the beach they could bite a dog.’

A crew of coastguards were in attendance to keep people away and ensure dogs didn’t go in the water, and they had cordoned that part of the beach off.   

Walker Fiona Rowbotham first spotted the whale on Wednesday morning and posted a warning on social media.

‘There’s some kind of big shark or whale washed up down the Gare,’ she said.

‘Just be careful anyone walking dogs down there.’

Minke whales are the smallest of the ‘great whales,’ growing to an average of 35ft (10.6 m) long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds (9 tonnes).

They are also the most common of the great whale species, and can be found throughout the world’s oceans. 

When any whale washes up on a beach, it is only a matter of time before they explode, sending their guts flying across the shoreline. 

When an animal dies, bacteria inside the carcass produces methane as part of the decomposition process. 

If this is not let out of the body gradually it builds up, exploding at the first opportunity.  

Whales are the most extreme because their huge size makes the consequences of a gas build-up so much greater.   

In 2013, a biologist was filmed cutting open a washed up whale on the Faroe Islands. 

As soon as the biologist began working, the gas trapped inside exploded, spewing tons of organs and guts into the air. 

What are minke whales and how big do they grow?

Minke whales are the smallest of the ‘great whales’ family

Minke whales are the smallest of the ‘great whales,’ growing to an average of 35ft (10.6 m) long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds (9 tons).

They are also the most common of the great whale species, and can be found throughout the world’s oceans 

Female minkes tend to be larger than their male counterparts. 

Minke whales are named after a Norwegian whaling spotter named Meincke, who allegedly mistook a minke for a blue whale.

They can stay submerged for at least 15 minutes before returning to the surface for air and live up to 50 years.

The minke whale continues to be hunted in nations such as Iceland, Norway and Japan. 

Minke whales are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List in part due to a lack of data. 

Some of their populations have experienced declining numbers, but not enough to indicate that they are in danger of extinction. 

They will usually feed on krill and small fish, but if those aren’t available they’ll hunt larger fish like haddock or cod. 

Minke whales gestate for 10 to 11 months and give birth to live young. Minke whale mothers will nurse their calves for four to six months before the calf switches to solid food.

 Source: Oceana.org

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