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.