A minke whale calf beached itself in Gorleston. Photo : Zak Leavold
Monday, June 17, 2013 (Sam Russell). Dog-walkers, late evening strollers and emergency services teamed up in a desperate bid to send the confused young minke whale back to sea.
It was stranded on Gorleston’s golden sands on Saturday night, near to the Ocean Room, after previously coming ashore further down the coast.
Humber Coastguard was called at 8.55pm with teams from Gorleston and Lowestoft paged to the scene, and an army of marine experts, council officers and even police joined members of the public on the beach.
After a concerted effort they managed to re-float it.
But when the whale beached itself again it became apparent that it could not survive on its own.
Out-of-hours vet Zak Leavold was called at 1.30am on Sunday and had to put the whale to sleep.
And on Sunday morning, beach-goers were met with the unusual sight of a whale being transported by JCB – before it is taken to London’s Natural History Museum for tests.
Darren Gook, marine biologist at Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre, said it is most likely that the whale got separated from its mother, “meandered off course, got confused and ended up where it shouldn’t be”.
Vet Mr Leavold, who is clinical director at Gorleston and Lowestoft- based Veterinary Hospital, is more used to dealing with cats and dogs.
He told the EDP: “I got a call at 1.30am and they said to me that they had this whale that they had been battling with to get out to sea – a newborn whale.
“But unfortunately it wasn’t going out to sea.
“I had no experience in marine animals – we’re a small animal veterinary practice – so I made a call to someone with experience then headed out with the veterinary nurse.” (Ndlr Sibylline : thanks for recognizing it, this humility isn’t always usual from traditional practicioners (current practice) in such situations and it shows how the marine mammals management is considered by authorities normally responsible of the Environmental Heritage).
He reached Gorleston beach at around 2.30am and found people holding the whale up with buoyancy aids.
And as a group they decided that the kindest thing to do was to put the whale down with an injection.
“Unfortunately we had to put it to sleep to stop it from suffering and drying up on land, which would be horrible for it,” said Mr Leavold. “The whale was quite stressed by that point.”
It was injected at around 3am.
Richard Atkins, 58, of Pavilion Road, Gorleston, is one of the people who had been trying to save the whale.
He described laying towels underneath it, and his partner’s 15-year-old son James Allinson had sprinted home to get his wet-suit so he could go in the sea and help the whale.
“Lots of people dotted in and out to help but we thought what the heck and stayed,” said Mr Atkins.
“We were getting wet and cold with our shoes in the water.”
The pair and Mr Atkins’ son Chris, 32, had spotted the whale while taking their dog for a run at around 10pm and stayed until gone midnight.
Dan Goldsmith, of the Seal and Bird Rescue Trust at Bacton, said they had hoped to put the whale out of its misery much sooner, but tracking down available marine experts late at night proved difficult.
And he hailed members of the public for helping keep the whale as “comfortable” as possible.
The whale had been spotted earlier beached south of Gorleston, near Pleasurewood Hills.
Kevin Trent, of London, had pulled his car over to enjoy the sea view when his daughter Jordan, 18, spotted the whale at around 7pm.
“We got it back in the water and it swam off and we thought we had saved a whale,” said Mr Trent. “It did take off and we could see it going deep enough but following the coast towards Yarmouth.
“It was such a beautiful whale as well.”
The whale was almost 3m long and weighed around 300 kilos (fully grown minke whales measure up to 8m and weigh up to 10 tonnes).
Environmental health officers at the borough council liaised with local firms to track down a JCB and a truck to move the whale at around 10am yesterday.
It will be kept in storage until experts from London’s Natural History Museum collect it to conduct post-mortem examinations.
Mike Puplett, watch manager at Humber coastguard, said the whale was first reported to them at 8.55pm on Saturday, with the caller stating it was a dolphin.
And scores of people were involved in the rescue effort, including three staff from Hunstanton Sealife Sanctuary, two medics from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue team, Bacton Seal and Bird Rescue, Lowestoft and Gorleston coastguard, the RSPCA, police and members of the public.
Lorraine Leggett, who helped in the rescue effort with her family, said : “It was very sad to see this poor animal in distress.
“It was something we needed to try to help with.”
A Minke whale calf washed up on Gorleston beach. Staff from Hunstanton Sealife Sancturary tried to save it.
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