Unidentified Beaked whale, Ballyteige, Co. Wexford 1st April

4th Apr 2004 As strandings of beaked whales are rare events, and we know so little about the distribution and ecology of these rarely seen animals, we'd ask you to keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you come across any washed up cetaceans in the Wexford area. The onshore winds over the weekend may well bring it back up on to a beach. If you do come across this whale, please secure it, or arrange to have it dragged up above the high water mark, so IWDG can attempt to identify its species.

REPORT OF A STRANDED WHALE

By Jim Hurley

Introduction: Terry Lawton 'phoned me to report the presence of "a dead whale or dolphin" on the strand at Ballyteige.

Method: On Thursday 1 April 2004, I visit the reported location, found the animal, examined the remains, took more than twenty photographs, took a number of measurements and compiled notes. That evening, literature available to me was reviewed and relevant Internet websites were perused.

Results: The following description was written from my field notes and photographs.

Location: The remains of the whale were lying on the animal's right side, parallel to the water's edge, belly towards the sea, about 1m below the most recent tideline on the shore of Ballyteige Bay, Co Wexford. The remains were at Irish Grid Reference S 950 047, c. 2km northwest of Forlorn Point, Kilmore Quay; more specifically 250m west of the seaward extremity of the Ballyteige Burrow Nature Reserve boundary fence line at Furlong's Road. The small size of the whale, its position low on the beach, the steep shelf on the shore, the very exposed nature of the shoreline and the fact that the Moon was waxing from the First Quarter on 28 March all suggested that the animal had been washed in within the previous few days.

Condition: The body had six sets of deep wounds (see Plate). The wounds were inflicted both dorsally and ventrally in three matching locations: forehead/throat, back/behind the flipper, and behind the dorsal fin/ behind the genitals. The cuts were double and curved suggesting impact with a ship's propellers. The remains were decomposing, bloated and oozing. Nine Great Black-backed Gulls were picking at the flesh.

Size and shape: Overall body length was 3.7m (tip of snout to trailing edge of tail flukes). Though the remains were bloated the body appeared to be somewhat compressed laterally. The fact that the back was very strongly keeled posterior to the dorsal fin, and that the animal was lying on its side, exaggerated this impression.

Colour: The whale was a uniform black in colour with no distinguishing marks or patterns. The underside was paler, varying from pink to maroon. This underside paleness extended from the flipper to the vent. There was a small, isolated feint pale area in front of the flipper giving the impression that the dark flipper was connected to the dark back by a dark band of colour.

Mouth: The animal had a very narrow lower jaw and a long slim snout (270mm from the tip of the snout to the corner of the mouth). The tip of the lower jaw very marginally protruded the level of the tip of the snout. No teeth could be located in the jaws. Some skin came away from the gums when the jaws were rubbed. There were two long throat grooves present between the lower jaws. The lower jaws were uniformly black in colour.

Melon: The whale did not have a melon. There was a very slight protuberance on the profile of the brow but it was insufficient to describe it as 'bulbous' or even 'bulging'. The protuberance may have appeared more significant than it was by the depression behind it accommodating the blowhole.

Blowhole: The blowhole was located in a shallow depression 429mm from the tip of the snout. It was open and weeping a slight discharge of body fluid. Since total body length was 3.7m, the blowhole was one eighth to one ninth of the distance along the length of the animal. The opening appeared to be a single hole.

Flippers: The exposed left flipper was relatively small