65-foot stranded whale dies on west Cork beach
A magnificent 65-foot long fin whale died today on a west Cork beach despite a major rescue effort after it became trapped on a sand bank.
The second largest animal on earth after the blue whale, the massive fin whale, was spotted by members of the local RNLI station based in Courtmacsherry at about 8am and a frantic rescue operation was immediately put in place.
Sadly, despite all efforts, the whale was pronounced dead by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) at about 11.30am.
Hundreds of people descended on the west Cork beach this morning to lend a hand to the rescue operation and they were still arriving in their droves over the course of the afternoon to see the massive mammal.
Michael Hurley of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat spotted the young whale on a large sandbank north of the lifeboat station through his binoculars and raised the alarm.
"His tail was up in the air waving about and he was very much alive at that time. I could see the spume of water being blown up. As time moved on, it became obvious he was getting more and more tired as his activity began to slow down.”
Mr Hurley said it was possible that the whale had come in on the tide the previous night and been in harbour all night.
“He may have been injured at sea. There is a score mark along one of his sides as if he was in collision with a ship or a trawler which may have contributed to him getting into difficulty. The biggest problem now will be getting him off the beach as he has to be taken away to a rendering plant.”
Mr Hurley explained that the whale will probably have to be moved by the county council with massive cranes and slings as he weighs about 15 tonnes. He said the creature measured over 65-foot in length and his tail measured 12 feet from tip to tip.
“He is probably one of the biggest ever seen in these waters. The Whale and Dolphin Group know of 65 whales who have been sighted in the Cork Harbour area but he is not one that they have come across before.”
With people continuing to arrive at the beach late yesterday afternoon - where one enterprising local had set up a chip van - Mr Hurley’s biggest fear was for public safety as those going out to see the whale could easily get cut off on the sandbank by the tide.
A whale that beaches in such circumstances has a very small chance of survival, according to the IWDG who had members at the scene yesterday. They usually seek shelter in coves and bays when they are injured and sick.
Padraig Whooley of the IWDG and NPWS Rangers confirmed that the whale was dead at about 11.30am following examination of the corneal reflexes. He said the whale appeared to be in poor condition with bones showing through its blubber.
"This was to be expected as there have been many fin whales along the south coast of Ireland for a number of months now and if one strands alive, the first reaction is to think it must be sick or in poor condition.
Mr Whooley explained that the IWDG have been working closely with operators to record the whales in the Cork Harbour area through a technique called photo-identification, where unique markings are recorded to enable recognition of individual animals.
An endangered species, the fin whale can grow to 88 feet in length, can dive to 820 feet deep and can hold its breath for 10 to 15 minutes.