Subject: Info: Denmark-Dead Whales (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Mon, 1 Apr 1996 18:21:51 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 96 02:33:00 UTC 0000
From: r.mallon1@genie.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: Denmark-Dead Whales

Denmark-Dead Whales

By JAN M. OLSEN
 Associated Press Writer
   COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Sixteen sperm whales were found dead
on a western Danish island Wednesday, bringing to at least 24 the
number that have died along North Sea coastlines in recent weeks.
   In late January, six carcasses were found on Scotland's
northeastern coast. Two weeks ago, two more of the mammals were
found dead in northern Denmark.
   The beaching of large groups of sperm whales is rare but not
extraordinary, said one Danish expert.
   But Danes still were alarmed by the news of so many dead whales,
the most recorded at one time since the 18th century. Onlookers and
television reporters rushed to the island to see the dead animals
Wednesday.
   The 16 whales probably had been dead for four or five days,
because two of them were in an early stage of decomposition and
contained gas.
   The animals appeared to be young, roaming, sexually immature
males, said whale specialist Carl Kinze, a marine biologist with
the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen.
   The beached mammals measured about 40 feet long. Adult sperm
whales measure up to 66 feet and weigh some 50 tons.
   The carcasses were found in knee-deep water on the Lakolk beach
on the northern side of Roemoe, a popular island among German
tourists in the summer but largely vacant during the winter.
   The whales probably were heading south, as they usually do in
early spring, Kinze said. Scientists are not certain why whales
beach themselves, and the Danish episode offered no hint of a
reason.
   The animals could have gotten too close to the coast and drowned
in the shallow waters off western Denmark, some experts guessed.
Winds then likely pushed them towards the coast.
   "Young sperm whales often travel in large herds and beachings
are exceptional but not abnormal," Kinze said.
   The largest recorded beaching of sperm whales in Denmark
occurred in 1723, when 18 died on the Danish coast, he said.
   All the whales will be towed onto the beach and analyzed, Kinze
said. But there were no plans to dissect them.