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Record-breaking whale stranded on Irish beach dies

Motionless in the shallows off the coast he lay, as his life ebbed away. It was a sorry end for the young fin whale, found trapped on a sand bank yesterday morning.

Although his carcass was left by the shore, apparently mourned by just a single surfer, this whale did not die without a fight. His final hours were testament to the bond between one of Earth’s largest animals and humankind – as up to 5,000 flocked to the beach to try to help him back to sea. The 65ft whale, whose species is endangered, had been spotted by lifeboatmen at their station at 8am. Then he was alive and spouting water from his blow-hole. Michael Hurley, of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Station in Ireland, said: ‘His tail was in the air waving about. I could see the spume of water being blown up.’

An endangered species, the fin whale can grow to 88 feet in length, can dive to 820 feet deep and can hold its breath for 10 to 15 minutes. But, he added: ‘As time moved on, it became obvious he was getting more and more tired as his activity began to slow down. He may have been injured at sea. ‘There is a score mark along one of his sides as if he was in collision with a ship.’ As soon as the alarm was raised, rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service began to co-ordinate a rescue operation with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

It was possible that the whale had come in on the tide the previous night and been in harbour all night. They hoped to launch a lifeboat and refloat the 15-ton whale by coaxing him out of the bay at high tide. As news spread, locals arrived to see if they could help. But by 11.30am, when the tide had dropped low enough for rangers to reach him, it was already too late.

The whale had weakened and died. Simon Berrow, from the IWDG, said: ‘Our options were limited. The whale was looking thin and bones were showing. It must have been pretty sick to die in such a short time.’ Experts believe the male may have been beached off County Cork all night, after seeking shelter. He was among the biggest of 65 sighted in the area. Cranes and slings will be needed to move the carcass.

The fin whale, second in size only to the blue whale, can grow to 88ft, dive to 820ft and stay underwater for 15 minutes.

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