Saturday 19 August 2017

Marine experts baffled by mystery of carcass with 9ft tusk that vanished

Gordon Deegan

IT'S the mystery tale of a large whale that vanished.

The large carcass of what is believed to be a new species of whale in Irish waters has disappeared after washing up on a remote beach.

Experts believe that the missing whale is a narwhal, which would make it the first one confirmed here.

Narwhals are an all-year-round Arctic species and are distinguished by their long tusk that can be up to three metres in length.

The rotting 15ft carcass vanished from the beach in Liscannor in Co Clare before scientists had the opportunity to examine it.

Dr Simon Berrow yesterday appealed to those who removed the whale to make contact with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) so the remains can be transferred to the Natural History Museum in Dublin for posterity.

"It is a very rare whale. It would be a first for Ireland and the Natural History Museum would love to get it and I think it would be appropriate for the State to keep it."

The IWDG said: "It would be an important find as this is a first for Ireland bringing to 25 the number of cetacean species recorded in our waters."

Dr Berrow, a founder member and chairperson of the IWDG, said it would have taken two to three people to remove the whale from the roadside adjacent to a beach north of Liscannor village.

Hurley

Last week, Max Halliday, from Shannon, reported the sighting of the whale, "with a tusk the length of a hurley" protruding from its head, to the IWDG.

Dr Berrow said that when IWDG volunteers got to the location "the whale was gone. We searched high and low. You could smell it, but you couldn't find it."

Mr Halliday said yesterday: "I am convinced that what I saw is a narwhal. It had the long tusk protruding from its head, but its head was badly damaged.

"I am absolutely mad that I didn't take a photo."

Dr Berrow said that IWDG volunteers have carried out to house-to-house inquiries and have been told the whale was there for a number of weeks.

Just 75,000 narwhals exist today, mostly situated in the fjords and inlets of northern Canada and western Greenland.

They are still hunted by the Inuit people and are preyed on by killer whales and polar bears. It has been speculated that the whale was in Irish waters because of climate change affecting polar waters.

Padraig Whooley, the group's sightings co-ordinator, said the most rational explanation for the narwhal ending up here was simply that it got lost.

Irish Independent

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