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Exactly one hundred years ago a scheme was implemented to record all of the strandings around the UK coast. The first animal to be recorded was a Cuviers beaked whale which stranded in Ireland. Below is the actual card index which details where and when the animal was found, the species and its size and sex. It also notes that some of the skeleton was recovered for the Museum.

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The first card index detailing the stranded Cuviers beaked whale, 100 years ago

 

The animal was first reported by HM Coastguard, and 100 years later they still continue to pass on reports. Since then the Museum has been gathering this data about the animals and we now have records of over 15,000 cetaceans that come ashore. Where possible we collect rare animals to join our historical collection of over 2,500 cetacean skeletons. These specimens provide an invaluable time series going back 400 years that can be used for present and future research.

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This year the Museum celebrates 100 years of collecting data about the porpoises, dolphins and whales that strand on our shores.

 

Although the Museum was collecting specimens of cetaceans for many years there was a lack of information about animals around the shores of the British Isles. So in 1911, to increase the numbers available for collection from around the UK coast, the Keeper of Zoology, Mr Sidney Harmer, suggested to the Museum's trustees and the Board of Trade (the goverment department whose responsiblity included wrecks and other things washed ashore)  that the Museum should be notified about any cetacean that came ashore.

 

After some debate, in June of 1912, the Board of Trade agreed to issue instructions to the Receiver of Wrecks to send 'telegraphic information' to the Museum regarding any cetacean that was reported to them. This was followed by a leaflet being sent in January 1913 to coastguard stations. The leaflet was a basic identification guide to improve the information being returned to the Museum.

 

In the first annual report published in 1914 there is a section bemoaning the fact that some reports were probably sharks and that the measurements taken 'were not completely uniform' - one early Fin Whale was reported to have measured 80 ft (about 25m) which would have made it a very large individual indeed.