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Coroner of the Seas has to deal with dead whale; Giant mammal washed up on North beach.

Byline: Dave Black

MARITIME salvage experts who normally deal with shipwrecks were called in yesterday after the body of a whale was washed up on a beach in Northumberland.

Scores of fascinated local residents, dog walkers and day-trippers made their way to Cresswell Beach near Druridge Bay to have a look at the 20ft-long dead mammal, believed to be a male minke whale, which was spotted on the sand at 9.30am.

Coastguard staff went to the scene and roped off the partly decomposed body before awaiting instructions from the Official Receiver of Wrecks.

Under British law dating back centuries, beached whales, dolphins, porpoises and sturgeon - so-called royal fish - are the property of the Queen.

The Receiver of Wrecks, part of the ONLINE Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and sometimes called the Coroner of the Seas, has to be notified about their discovery, and give permission for the disposal of whale carcases.

Late yesterday afternoon - after the incoming tide had engulfed the dead whale - Castle Morpeth Council, worked with the Environment Agency on how best to dispose of the body.

Coast and countryside officer Sam Talbot, who had earlier gone to the beach with colleague Colin Marlee in a bid to identify what kind of whale it was, said the disposal options appeared to be landfill, incineration or rendering on the spot - although the carcase will have to be removed from the sands.

She said: "We believe it is either a minke or fin whale, although we are leaning towards a minke.

"It is quite badly decomposed, so it is hard to tell. The police had a launch out yesterday circling a dead whale in the sea off Blyth, and we think this could be the same one.

"My colleague has been with the council for 23 years and this is the first time he has come across a dead whale washed up.

We sometimes find seals and porpoises, but a whale is pretty unusual and the local dog walkers have not seen anything like this before."

Jonathan Lamberth of Newbiggin coastguard, who was helping keep watch over the dead giant, said: "We have had lots of people coming down to have a look, but it is starting to smell a bit and we have roped the body off to try to stop dogs from getting at it."

TEST RESULTS AWAITED ON MYSTERY OIL

POLLUTION watchdogs are still waiting for the results of tests aimed at identifying a mystery substance which led to the closure of a Northumberland beach.

Cambois Beach was closed to the public a month ago following the discovery of globules of an unidentified oily substance at the high tide mark on the sands.

It has since been re-opened by Wansbeck Council after initial laboratory tests carried out by the Environment Agency confirmed the material was not a risk to the public. Now Agency officials are awaiting the results of further tests to identify exactly what the pollutant was and where it came from.

Samples were taken away for analysis before the council cleaned up, stockpiled and then disposed of the material at an approved site.

Yesterday, an Agency spokesman said: "We have done initial tests on the material which showed it was safe, and we are now awaiting the results of further lab analysis to see what it is."

ONLINE

IN April, The Journal told the story of how reader Peter Ennis, who spent eight years igniting enormous explosions as a shot firer in Northumberland, relived his most bizarre blast - dealing with a 42-tonne sperm whale.

The strangest job of his career, in October 1973, saw him stuff five sticks of explosive into the carcass of the 54ft mammal that was stranded on the beach at Seaton Point, near Boulmer, in Northumberland. The Receiver of Wrecks at the time, David Anderson, ordered the blasting of the dead whale after a number of firms refused to take the meat for pet food. For the full story of the spectacular explosion, go to www.journallive.co.uk

We believe it is either a minky or fin whale, although we are leaning towards a minky.

CAPTION(S):

DISTRESSING The dead whale washed up on Cresswell beach in Northumberland. Local officials are taking advice from the Receiver of Wrecks about how to dispose of the carcase. Picture: Lewis Arnold www.journallive.co.uk/buyaphoto ref: 01153713; WATCHING Linzi Corbett and John Whitehall of Newbiggin Coastguard.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 18, 2008
Words:734
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