Shingle Street: Whale dies on beach

A WHALE rarely seen from the region’s coastline has died after beaching in Suffolk.

The 20ft minke whale struggled for about half an hour to free itself from the shore at Shingle Street but died shortly after the arrival of an inshore lifeboat crew from Aldeburgh.

Onlookers watched helplessly as the whale struggled in the shallows.

Angler Charles Wood, of Ipswich, was fishing on the beach when he saw the drama unfold shortly after 3pm yesterday.

He said: “I was facing Orford Ness about a quarter-mile from the shingle spit and saw something thrashing around at the top of the beach.

“At first I thought it was a killer whale trying to get hold of a seal – but as the tide went down it uncovered what looked more like a minke.

“It must have become confused by the shallow water. I’ve seen plenty of porpoises and seals off the shore but never anything like this. It’s quite sad.”

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Jimmy Robinson, deputy launching authority at Aldeburgh lifeboat, said the whale was still moving when he and his crew arrived.

A Harwich Coastguard spokeswoman said: “The Natural History Museum will come and carry out an autopsy to find out what the whale died from – it’s all in their hands now. We are just hoping it doesn’t float off at high water.”

Minke whales are found in the northern North Sea but rarely reach local waters and are seldom seen close to shore.

A smaller minke was put down after it was stranded on a beach in Northumberland last week.

Simone Bullion, of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, has written on the subject of minke whales and their appearance on the East Anglian coast.

According to records, the last sighting was in 2007 off Kessingland. Before that, a minke was temporarily stranded in the River Stour in 1986. The last instance of a minke carcass being found was in 1982 at Easton Broad.

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