The cetacean strandings project at the Museum has been running for 100 years, since the responsibility for beached whales, dolphins and porpoises was handed over by the Crown.
The Crown held rights on stranded cetaceans from 1324, when they were known as 'fishes royal' since the Crown had first claim on them.
At that time, the animals would have had great economic value.
In 1913, the rights to study cetaceans stranded or caught in the waters of England and Wales for scientific research were transferred from the Crown to the Museum by the government.
A female Cuvier's beaked whale in Northern Ireland was the first animal reported to the Museum in the summer of 1913.
Since then, each animal is given a unique stranded whale (SW) number. This is catalogued alongside information about:
Museum scientists initially stored information in a card index. They now use a digital database. With this information we are learning about cetacean distribution and lifestyles.
Natural History Museum
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All whales, dolphins and porpoises are cetaceans. The name comes from the Latin cetus, meaning 'large sea animal'. Cetaceans are marine mammals.
A sea creature washed up on a beach or river bank that can't get back out to sea becomes known as a stranding. Animals may wash up already dead, or die as a result of becoming stranded.