Giant Dead Whale Washes Up In Purbeck

2 November 2012, 12:36 | Updated: 2 November 2012, 12:41

Marine experts in Dorset are waiting to find out if a huge dead whale found on a remote shore near Rope Lake Head in Purbeck was a rare fin whale.

Local resident and author of "Purbeck Revealed", Ilay Cooper, made the surprise discovery of the 13.6m (44.6ft) mammal whilst walking along the shore at low tide last week.  

Dorset Wildlife Trust's Marine Conservation Officer, Emma Rance, said:

"The position of the whale has made it difficult to identity as its head, blow hole and dorsal fin are hidden but I am certain it's a male baleen (filter feeding) whale and I believe it could be a rare fin whale juvenile Balaenoptera physalus - the second largest whale in the world - with adults reaching lengths of 27m. 

"Identity will be certain once the Natural History Museum Strandings Unit have taken skin and blubber samples.  These can also show its age, health, cause of death and any pollution encountered at sea."  

If confirmed, this will be the first time a fin whale has been reported dead or alive in Dorset.  In recent years, the smallest and most common baleen whale, the minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata, has been recorded alive in Dorset and two have washed up dead in the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve.

Emma added:

"Whilst it is a sad sight and there doesn't appear to be any obvious signs of how it died, it is always interesting to have the chance to see such giants. 

"However, it's important to remember that all whales and dolphins carry transmissible disease and infections and can pose a health risk when dead or alive so please keep your distance.

"Rope Lake Head can also be difficult to access with the added risk of being cut off by the tide and unexpected cliff falls."

All whales, dolphins and porpoises are 'Royal Fish' and property of the Crown.  Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to possess any part of the animal except under licence. All dead strandings should be reported to the Natural History Museum on 0207 9425155 and Portland Coastguard 01305 760439.