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A W H A L E IN THE RIVER

STOUR

HOWARD MENDEL

O n 6th N o v e m b e r , 1986 at a b o u t 9.00 a . m . , a whale, estimated to b e 20ft in length, was t e m p o r a r i l y s t r a n d e d on a s a n d b a n k in Bathside Bay, on t h e Essex side of t h e R i v e r S t o u r . T h e event caused considerable interest and was r e p o r t e d o n t h e f r o n t p a g e of t h e East Anglian Daily T i m e s ( E A D T ) t h e following m o r n i n g . By c h a n c e , M r . J o h n Willis a professional p h o t o g r a p h e r , was on assignm e n t at P a r k e s t o n Q u a y and has provided the following details and the excellent p h o t o g r a p h s . 'I was w o r k i n g at P a r k e s t o n Q u a y . . . w h e n I was told that t h e r e was a w h a l e s t r a n d e d o n t h e s a n d b a n k , with the tide going o u t . . . it was . . . a b o u t 10.30 a . m . w h e n I r e a c h e d the s p o t . ' "The w h a l e w a s quite visible by now. Occasionally it would blow, which w a s a great sight that I h a d n e v e r witnessed b e f o r e . ' ' A t a p p r o x 11.30 a . m . t h e Sealink flagship " S t N i c h o l a s " was leaving h a r b o u r a n d d u e to t h e size of the vessel it was necessary . . . to go d e a d slow past t h e w h a l e , as n o t t o cause any d a m a g e . . .' '. . . t h e H a r w i c h H a r b o u r B o a r d [patrol boat] had . . . R S P C A Inspect o r on b o a r d . . . and with a great a m o u n t of t h o u g h t and p a t i e n c e m a n a g e d t o push the w h a l e off t h e s a n d b a n k , and with great speed it

J o h n Willis (Orwell P h o t o g r a p h y )

Trans. Suffolk

Nat. Soc. 24


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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 24

J o h n Willis (Orwell P h o t o g r a p h y )

headed towards Wrabness, going completely in the wrong direction. The boat also followed at great speed and managed to turn it in the direction of the sea. But unfortunately they lost it . . .' According to the report in the E A D T , members of the crew of a tanker 'The Beckenham' on its way to Ipswich Port, later in the day, saw the whale between Harwich and Felixstowe, heading out to sea. It is most unlikely that the sighting referred to a different animal. The species of whale has not yet been determined. It was reported by the E A D T as a 'bottlenose', Hyperoodon ampullatus (Forster) but from the photographs one of the Balaenoptera species seems more likely. Mr. M. C. Sheldrick of the British Museum (Natural History) has examined the photographs and agrees that it 'almost certainly' belongs to the genus Balaenoptera but is not prepared to try to identify the animal further. From the past occurrence of whales in Suffolk, Lesser Rorqual, Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Lacepede) would seem most likely, but we can not be certain. A summary of the Suffolk records of this species is given by Quinn (1983). Reference Quinn, P., (1983). A tale of two whales. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc., 19, 358. Howard Mendel The Museum High Street IPSWICH I P 1 3 Q H

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 24

A whale in the River Stour  

Mendel, H.

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