Northern Ireland

Fin whale removed from Portstewart beach

The whale was removed from the beach on Monday night Image copyright Kevin McAuley
Image caption The whale was removed from the beach on Monday night

A 43ft (13m) whale has been removed from a beach in Portstewart, County Londonderry, after it washed up there.

The operation, involving the Department of the Environment, the coastguard and the National Trust, began just after 16:00 BST on Monday.

The initial suggestion was that it was a Sei whale which had died of old age, but the DoE later said tests had confirmed it was a juvenile fin whale.

Next to the blue whale, the fin whale is the world's second largest mammal.

Image copyright Leona Jardine
Image caption The 43ft animal was taken away on a trailer after three diggers were used to lift it
Image caption Fin whales are the second largest mammals after the blue whale
Image caption People gathered on the beach to catch a glimpse of the whale

Joe Breen of the DoE said the past summer had been "extraordinary" for sightings of both whales and dolphins off the north coast.

"We followed about 70 or 80 dolphins up and down the coast this summer," he said.

"We had reports of humpbacked whales off Rathlin and there was an unusual sighting of a Beluga whale off Dunseverick. We know things are happening within the sea."

Image caption The whale was later moved away by contractors for the National Trust, aided by road workers

Contractors for the National Trust worked to remove the whale from Portstewart strand.

They were helped by contractors who had been working on the nearby A26, when it became clear that they would need a much larger digger to lift the whale.

In the end, three diggers worked together to haul the whale off the beach.

"I have never seen a sight like it, three diggers in harmony pulled it up on to the trailer. It was incredible to watch," Mr Breen said.

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