Another large whale stranding in Co. Sligo...UPDATE

8th Dec 2011 Report III, 08/12/11, 10:00am.

Just 10 days after the 1st fin whale stranding ever reported in Co. Sligo on Ardtermon, Raghly on 28/11/11, the IWDG can report that a second, larger 15.3m baleen whale, has also been validated as a fin whale, was reported yesterday evening 7/12/11 on the Maugherow Peninsula, just a few Kms north of the 1st stranding site. Images on the Magherow Whale Group facebook page confirm it to be another male, which at least rules out the possibility that these were a mother and calf pair.

It is not possible to confirm whether these two stranding events are linked, but the timing and proximity of these events are curious and raise some interesting questions. We understand that salvage efforts to strip the Raghly fin whale of its blubber will begin tomorrow. Unfortunately this 2nd animal being larger in size (15.3) may have been a better candidate for salvage, but there appears to be some damage to the jawbones and access to the stranding site is difficult.

The following warning has been issued by Siobhan Ryan, Heritage Officer with Sligo Co. Co...." the new whale at the townland of Agharrow, near Grange, known locally as Staid Abbey is on a smooth rock ledge which is sloped down towards the sea. It is not a safe access point for the public.

We are asking the public not to visit this whale as the seas are currently running very high with storm force winds."

IWDG will endeavour to keep you updated if there are any developments on this most unusual series of whale strandings.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator

Report II, 30/11/11, 16:00.

As the decay process kicks in, the whale has started to become quite bloated due to the build up of gases in the body tissues. So it has lost that stream-lined appearance which gave rise to their nickname... "the greyhound of the sea", which they were called by the whalers of old. The presence of an appendage at the genital slit confirms this to be male.

Options are being explored by local community and agencies with a view to securing the whale with the long term aim of cleaning the carcass and displaying the skeleton. The weather however may be the ultimate decider on whether this is a runner as the stormy seas may yet reclaim it.

Report I, 29/11/11

IWDG can now confirm that a dead stranded baleen whale initially reported on 28/11/11 by Jimmy & Viera Stupakova at Ardtermon Strand, near Raghly, is the 1st validated stranding record of a fin whale in Co. Sligo and only the 5th record of this species in Irish northwest waters since recording of Irish cetacean strandings began.

Initial reports on 28/11/11 described it as "whale species" with an estimated length of c10m, but without images or a description it wasn't possible to confirm species. This afternoon, local IWDG member Ulrike Schwier visited the site and sent a series of images which show sufficient diagnostic features to confirm this to be the planet's second largest whale, the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus. Among these features (photo below) is the assymetric head colouration which gives them a lower white jaw on the right side, extending to the baleen, as well as a backswept dorsal fin, situated two- thirds along the back.

Ulrike who has observed fin whales in the wild under somewhat happier circumstances with IWDG in Baja, Mexico in 2009, measured this specimen at 13m (42ft), which would put this animal in the juvenile or sub-adult range. Adult fin whales can routinely reach lengths in the 20-22m range.

The relatively fresh condition of the animal would suggest that it is not long dead and IWDG will arrange for skin and tissue samples to be collected for removal to GMIT for analyses as part of a PhD study on fin whale ecology in Irish waters. If possible we will also take a range of measurements and remove a sample of b

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