Pevensey whale remains echo the giant of Victorian era

The remains of the 50ft whale. Photo by Stephen Marsh
The remains of the 50ft whale. Photo by Stephen Marsh

The body of a whale found on a Pevensey Beach has been identified as the same species as the huge creature that famously washed up in almost the exact same place in 1865.

The 50ft (15m) remains were discovered on Friday (October 7) at Normans Bay by Jez Asfour while out walking his dog.

Rob Deaville, of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, said that it was most likely to be a Finback Whale, the second largest type of the mammal after the Blue Whale.

Mr Deaville will be collecting bone samples under license, as it is illegal to take any part of a dead whale without one. He said, “We do not normally get access to this tissue.”

The zoologist said that it is impossible to tell how the creature died but he was confident that the rope, found wrapped around its tail, was attached to the body after its death.

A 71ft (21m) Finback Whale, which weighed as much as eight double decker buses, washed up on the beach at Pevensey Bay on Novermber 13, 1865.

Reports say as many as 40,000 people flocked to see the creature, the skeleton of which is still on display at Cambridge Museum of Zoology.

For many, in an age before television or the internet, it was the first time they had ever seen a whale.

More than 150 years later came last week’s discovery of the whale remains.

Stephen Marsh, of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said, “It’s mainly just an amorphous mass of disintegrating skin and no skull or anything.

“I can’t really give an indication of the live animal’s size as the skin has detached from the skeleton and stretched out - that’s really all there is to see.”

He also has a warning for anyone going to see the carcass. He said, “People should keep children and dogs away from it. Not only is it very smelly, but the bacteria that are breaking it down could be harmful if ingested by other mammals – like us and dogs!”

Graham Bishop, who regularly walks along Pevensey Bay with his wife, was surprised to see the enormous carcass at the weekend.

“It was so sad to see it there like that. It was nice to see such a huge creature but it is a shame it died,” he said.

Finback Whales, also known as Fin Whales, are rare in British waters and their behaviour patterns are not fully understood by humans. They are extremely fast for their large size, reaching speeds of up to 25mph, and can dive to depths of more than 200m.

The number of the whales – which are commercially hunted for their meat by Iceland and Japan – is unknown, but the species is threatened and they are currently classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on a global basis,

They are classed as Near Threatened in Europe and Vulnerable in the Mediterranean.