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Explosive warning over whale carcass.

Byline: RACHEL PUGH AND HANNAH GRAHAM Reporters

ADEAD whale washed up on a Northumberland beach could explode, the Coastguard has warned.

Onlookers have been urged to stay away from Sandy Bay beach at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea as the remains of the young sperm whale, nicknamed Moby, are removed.

Plans are in place to clear the carcass away today.

Dave Nesbitt, station officer for the Newbiggin Coastguard Rescue Team, said: "There is a risk of explosion with gas building up, so it is a public safety issue."

The 13.3m long Moby was spotted stuck close to the shore last Friday. Many people followed his progress on social media, but his body eventually washed up on Sandy Bay beach.

Experts from the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), who research the causes of whale, dolphin and porpoise deaths, have been carrying out tests to determine what killed the mammal and whether it was carrying any diseases.

Moby's jawbone and teeth were removed, and will be sent to the Great North Museum: Hancock to be preserved. The rest of the whale's carcass will be disposed of today by Northumberland County Council.

The authority has asked people to stay away from the area as there will be large machinery operating.

The 30-tonne whale died of suffocation after becoming stranded, but experts say it will now be hard to tell if illness or other conditions brought it there, as most of its organs have already decomposed.

Younger male sperm whales, which can grow to 35 to 45 tonnes and have the largest brain of any creature on earth, often inhabit areas of the Norwegian Sea, but get into trouble if they come further south.

Rob Deaville, CSIP project manager with the Zoological Society of London, said: "We see around four or five sperm whale strandings each year. Unfortunately this part of the North Sea acts as quite a good trap for them, because they area deep water species and when they end up in shallow waters their sonar doesn't work properly, they can't navigate and, unless they get away very quickly, they do get stranded. We're unlikely to know exactly what happened to this individual, but we can learn a lot from it.

"This species is very hard to see wild, so although this is a sad event we use strandings to find out as much as we can about their lives.

"We're interested in looking inside the stomach to find information about what they've been feeding on, and we will look at any plastics inside the stomach or chemical pollution it's been exposed to."

Two women watching on as experts worked on the body said they'd been following Moby's progress since last week, hoping he would be able to make it back to sea.

One said: "At the beginning it was great to see him swimming, but since he was stranded it's been really sad."

Geoff Lee, staying at Sandy Bay Holiday Park, added: "It's terrible - when we saw it swimming on telly we thought it would get away."

CAPTION(S):

<B A Coastguard officer looks at the body of a sperm whale which washed up at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea

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Author:RACHEL PUGH AND HANNAH GRAHAM Reporters
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 15, 2019
Words:523
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