The Big Eye, February 9, 2016

The sixth beached whale at Hunstanton last week -  Maria Rix ANL-160502-153754001
The sixth beached whale at Hunstanton last week - Maria Rix ANL-160502-153754001
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It’s been a hell of a week for the wildlife floundering on the margins of our comfy world. Over the last few days we’ve been faced with the sad sight of a 30 tonne leviathan that once surged beneath the waves struggling to breathe his last on Sunny Hunny’s beaches.

Until faced with one of these creatures it’s hard to get a real impression of just how hugely impressive they are. Seeing the press coverage of the first of our beached whales made me initially appalled at the way ‘the public’ turned up to gawp and prod the lifeless lump of blubber lying forlornly on the rocks. I was all ready to get on the moral high ground and express indignant outrage at the way we were treating this tragedy as a fairground freakshow, but then my curiosity got the better of me and I went to look.

Sad as it is, beached whales have always been part of our coastline’s heritage and since early medieval records were first kept there have been reports of sightings and crowds making the journey to come to view the spectacle. Businesses reported an upturn in takings and despite the macabre reason for the sudden interest in Hunstanton on a chilly winter weekend, it provoked a certain amount of carnival atmosphere in the town.

There is little or nothing we can do to save these animals once their ‘radar’ and echo location equipment becomes disorientated by our shallow inshore waters. All credit to the volunteers who tried heroically to offer whatever comfort they could to the sperm whales but faced with the enormity of the problem of trying to keep these sea creatures wet while their body weight is literally crushing them to death seems desperately sad.

I believe that those of us who took the time to visit and maybe even pay homage to one of the masters of the deep will remember the day they went to see the whale and maybe take away a new found interest and respect for the wonders of nature.

The death of so many whales up and down the North Sea should set alarm bells ringing and maybe someone will try and extract some good from these events. It’s hard to imagine how quickly something as powerful as a sperm whale can become weak and vulnerable in such a short time, but I guess that it’s a metaphor for all our lives.

Closer to home I was equally thrilled by the pandemonium caused when a cheeky creature scuttled in front of a customer in a Lynn supermarket. Rats seem to bring out the worst in people and although it probably wasn’t the ideal place to spot one and compared to the sperm whales he isn’t likely to go down in the annals of history but it was still a wildlife encounter and at the end of the day we need to accept that everything should have a right to life…even Sammy, the Sainsbury’s rat.