A 40ft long Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, has recently washed up onto rocks a short distance from the beach at Saltburn by the Sea in Cleveland. The whale, believed to have died a number of days ago has been monitored by the Coastguard as the carcass of the huge mammal floated in the waters off the small Victorian coastal town before finally coming to rest at the foot of cliffs.
At the time of writing the cause of the death of the whale is not known but could have been due to being struck by a passing ship or it simply died of natural causes or illness.
The Sperm Whale is the largest of the toothed whales and is the largest toothed animal in the world. The whale was named after the milky-white substance spermaceti found in its head and originally mistaken for sperm. The Sperm Whale’s enormous head and distinctive shape, have led many to describe it as the archetypal whale.
The Sperm Whales’ large head, particularly in males, is typically one-third of its length. In contrast to the smooth skin of most other large whales, the skin on the back of the Sperm Whale is usually knobbly and has been likened to a prune by whale-watching enthusiasts and is uniformly grey in colour. The brain of the Sperm Whale is the largest and heaviest of all animals (weighing on average 7 kg in a grown male).
Sperm Whales breath air at the surface of the water through a single, s-shaped blowhole. The blowhole is located on the left side of the front if its huge head. They spout (breathe) 3-5 times per minute at rest, but the rate increases to 6-7 times per minute after a dive. The blow is a noisy, single stream that rises up to 50 feet (15 m) above the surface of the water and points forward and to the left of the whale at a 45° angle.
Sperm whales are believed to be able to reach depths of 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) when they dive and can remain submerged for 90 minutes. The marine mammal is a carnivore and can reach lengths of up to 49 to 59 feet and can weigh anything between 35 and 45 tons!
However unusual it is to see these rare mammals washed up on our shoreline, allowing us a closer glimpse of a once graceful creature than the majority of us will ever see close up and whether it is down to natural selection or more man made dangers that brought this whale to an early demise I think all would agree, it is far better for them to be out swimming in the seas and oceans of the world.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society..http://www.wdcs.org.uk/
- For further information on the Sperm Whale follow this link to Wikipedia….