Soldiers help transport 21ft whale body to lab in Inverness

The Minke whale on the back of a lorry travels through Inverness on its way to a lab in the city for an autopsy. Picture: SWNS
The Minke whale on the back of a lorry travels through Inverness on its way to a lab in the city for an autopsy. Picture: SWNS
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The body of a massive two-tonne whale stranded on a beach was hauled through Inverness - on the back of an army lorry.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) received reports of a live minke whale on the shore at Ardersier Bay, in the Highlands last week.

But despite the best efforts of the British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue crew, the whale died after getting stuck on dry land ahead of Storm Ali battering the coast.

The SMASS team were dispatched to carry out a necropsy on the whale but with the storm brewing the group called in the 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland to help.

The soldiers hoisted the whale on to the back of their lorry to transport the 21ft long animal to the lab in Inverness.

The group said on Facebook: “Given the size of the animal, and hence the obvious issues with taking it anywhere, the initial thought was we would have to do the necropsy.

“However, with a storm brewing and a forecast featuring galeforce winds and horizontal hail, we rapidly explored options for transporting the animal to our lab in Inverness.”

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They added: “Nevertheless the animal was 644cm long and weighed an estimated 2000kg; not an easy thing to shift.

“With the weather rapidly worsening we needed a solution quickly, and it was with the great help of a local farmer that the carcase was moved off the beach, where the guys of the 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland were waiting with their well-equipped high up truck.

“Having a 644cm minke whale on a 500cm truck does however mean that a noticeable bit of your whale dangles off the back, so it was quite a sight driving through the capital of the Highlands.

“So with great thanks to the army, we managed to get the minke to our lab for post-mortem within 18 hours of death.

“The sub-adult female was very debilitated, had a thin blubber layer and had not recently fed, and showed pathology consistent with live stranding and agonal water aspiration.

“The most significant findings however were the severe lesions in the brain.”

Researchers found the young female was showing signs of a bacterial infection and severe brain lesions.

The group continued: “It is almost certain the cognitive ability of this animal was severely compromised as a result of these lesions, impairing the ability to forage and, ultimately, leading to the animal live stranding and drowning.”

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