Subject: Sperm Whale: Wrong turning' may have doomed (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 13:32:04 -0500 (EST)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue,  1 Apr 97 03:40:00 GMT 
Subject: Wrong turning' may have doomed

Wrong turning' may have doomed Moby

  By Joe Quinn, PA News
   A post-mortem examination is to be carried out tomorrow on Moby, the 50ft
sperm whale who died today stranded on mudflats in Scotland's Firth of Forth.
   Experts will also decide how to dispose of his giant body, their task made
harder by the difficult access to soft mud on which he came to grief.
   Efforts were tonight under way to tether his carcass, using a ship's mooring
rope to secure his 40 tonne bulk.
   The aim was to keep the carcass secure so it could be examined tomorrow, and
to prevent it floating off on a high tide and becoming a danger to shipping,
said Dr Keith Todd, curator of the nearby Deep-Sea World aquarium.
   Tomorrow's talks on disposal would involve coastguards and council and
environmental health officials, said Dr Todd.
   He was with Moby when the animal died and afterwards measured the body -
50ft long, and 30ft in circumference.
   Dr Todd and fellow experts believe the animal died from stranding after
becoming confused over direction, rather than suffering from disease or
itself deliberately in a suicide attempt.
   His repeated, and ultimately doomed, attempts to swim upstream west up the
Forth may be because his direction-finding was confused by a wrong turning
took him into the North Sea in the first place.
   The Deep-Sea World experts believe he and other whales on the annual
route from the Arctic to the Azores turned left too soon off the north of
Scotland - down into the North Sea rather the next left into the Atlantic.
   And the repeated attempts to swim west up the Forth may have indicated he
trying to get further westwards.
   A colleague, aquarium spokesman Alex Kilgour, said: "He suffocated very
quickly which was nice because he wasn't in pain for too long."
   "It happened extremely quickly. We were expecting it to take six to 12
which we were dreading."
   Hopes for the safety of Moby had all but vanished earlier today when hewas
found stranded on the mudflats.
   Rescuers said his plight was hopeless and appealed for the public to stay
to let him die in peace - on a previous stranding on Sunday children had thrown
stones at him, they said.
   By late morning the whale was three-quarters exposed out of the water, on a
mud flat in shallow waters near Airth, central Scotland,  on the south bank of
the Forth.
   With a receding tide, nothing could be done to alleviate his plight.
   Normally a beached whale would die rapidly, from the sheer weight imposed on
the animal's internal organs once the mammal was out of the buoyancy provided
   Experts feared that his plight could be prolonged by the soft mud, but this
now appears not to have happened.
   "We are all very, very sad about what has happened, epecially after thinking
at one stage that this could have a happy ending," said Mr Kilgour.
   Moby first appeared in the Forth 12 days ago, and fears that he could come
grief in the upstream shallows prompted attempts to guide him to safety using
the noise of boats to nudge him eastwards.
   These succeeded at the third attempt, last Sunday, when Moby ventured clear
the Forth road and rail bridges - the whale's previous refusal to swim under
these being thought to be caused by fright at traffic noise.
   He became briefly stranded after that, but then freed himself - only to be
seen in the area again on Tuesday night.
   He was then seen again on Sunday, grounded for some time at Bo'ness in
Scotland, before being located today at Airth.