Sperm Whales Washed Up On North Sea Coast

 

A number of sperm whales were washed up on land in the North Sea during January and February this year. A total of 30 whales died on British, German, Dutch and French coasts. The whales may belong to a group that came to the North Sea together. While autopsies are still being carried out there is no proof that the deaths were caused by humans. Authorities had problems securing the beaches as curious tourists arrived to take selfies with the whales.

Scientists are trying to find out why the sperm whales got into the rather shallow North Sea. Normally, they move around in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean, hunting for food in depths of about 1000 to 1500 metres. For some unknown reason they died hunting squid and couldn't survive in shallow water. Once they entered the North Sea they couldn't escape.

Some experts say that  wrong sonar signals possibly caused by the sound of wind farms may have led the mammals off course. Others claim that solar flares may have interfered with their journey. Another reason may be the lack of food in the Atlantic that made them travel to other areas.

Sperm whales are social animals that often travel in groups and stay together. The whales that ended up dead in the North Sea were all males. They migrate to cooler regions when they become adults, while female sperm whales stay in warmer waters the whole year.

Scientists say that the death of sperm whales in the North Sea is not a single occurrenceRecords show that several whales have been found on North Sea coasts in the past. Such incidents are likely to happen more often in the future.

 

Sperm whales are among the largest mammals in the world. They can weigh up to 45 tons. About 200 000 of them still populate the oceans around the world. While it is very difficult to monitor whales in the open ocean they are watched closely by humans when they get near the shores.

 

Stranded sperm whale

Stranded sperm whale - Image: Dirk Claesen

 

 

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Words

  • authorities = group of people who have the power to make certain decisions
  • autopsy = to cut open the  dead body of a person or animal to find out what killed them
  • carry out = to do a special action
  • cause = to be the reason for
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • curious = very interested
  • depth = how deep something is
  • escape = get away
  • humans = people
  • incident = something special that happened
  • interfere = to get in the way of; distract
  • lack = not enough
  • likely = will probably
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother's body when it is  young
  • migrate = travel to a place for a certain time
  • monitor = watch closely
  • populate = live in a place
  • proof = facts or information  that shows that something is true
  • record = document that says how, when or where something happened
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • secure = to protect something
  • selfie = photo you take of yourself with a mobile phone
  • shallow = not deep
  • shore = coast
  • squid = sea animal with a long body and lots of arms around the mouth
  • single occurrence = something that happens only once
  • social = to live together
  • solar flare = sudden flash of bright light near the sun's surface
  • sonar = the use of sound waves to find out where something is to be found in the water
  • survive = to live on in a dangerous situation
  • unknown = not known
  • wash up = here: brought to the coast
  • weigh = how heavy something is
  • wind farm = group of tall structures that produce energy from the wind