Stranded whale dies on Western Isle beach

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A 18m/60' whale found beached on the shore of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides has died after attempts to rescue the oceanic giant failed.

The massive cetacean, thought to be either a Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) or the rare Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) was found stranded but alive on a beach near Gerinish on Tuesday.

Despite the help of local volunteers, the whale was simply too big to be helped by any available flotation devices.

Whales of this size can rapidly succumb to organ failure once their vast bodies are unsupported by water. Hopes that the doomed creature could be euthanised were dashed as with an estimated weight of around 10 tons there were insufficient drugs available on the island to carry this out.

Efforts were made to keep the whale comfortable with the volunteers fending off the attentions of scavenging sea birds and security staff from the nearby Hebrides Rocket Range patrolling the area to prevent people gathering around the whale and stressing it further.

It eventually died around midday yesterday. The reason the whale stranded is not known, but it may have already been ill, or perhaps simply made a navigational mistake.

The island is now left with the difficult decision of what to do with the huge carcass, with burial on the beach being considered. However, once again the remoteness of the area may be prohibitive to obtaining and using the heavy machinery required for such an operation.

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