Humpback whale stranded on Sawtell Beach.
Humpback whale stranded on Sawtell Beach. Rachel Vercoe

Beached whale carcass to help scientific research

MONDAY 11.40AM: SAMPLES of the dead humpback whale will be supplied to researchers to help better understand the species.

ORRCA vice-president, Shona Lorigan, said samples of the animal would be given to various research agencies.

She said the cause behind the mammal getting stranded on Sawtell Beach was still to be determined.

The whale was removed from the beach and a NPWS spokeswoman said it would likely be buried under landfill. 

SATURDAY 4PM: THE juvenile humpback whale that has been beached at Sawtell for more than a day has been euthanised after its condition worsened.

"It's been a very, very difficult afternoon for everybody involved," marine rescue organisation Orcca vice president Shona Lorigan said. 

Ms Lorigan confirmed the young whale, weighing about 10 tonnes, was put down this afternoon.

It was first spotted by beachgoers early on Friday but rough sea conditions hindered rescue attempts.

"Mother nature's not helped us today, the waves are getting bigger as I watch," Ms Lorigan said.

"We had no hope of getting boats in until at least Monday."

She said experts had been monitoring the whale overnight and saw its health deteriorating.

"We really had to think of the welfare of the whale and we didn't want it to suffer any longer," she said.

Arrangements are being made for the whale to be taken off the beach and buried.


SATURDAY 1.15PM: POOR conditions have left rescuers no option but to euthanase the stranded humpback whale at Sawtell Beach.

Rough seas hampered earlier rescue attempts.

The oceanic mammal had been stranded on the beach since about 7am yesterday.

It had been washed about 70m north with the tides but was unable to swim out of the surf break.

SATURDAY 10AM: Heavy seas have hindered the ability of rescuers to use boats to tow a stranded whale on Sawtell Beach back out to sea. 

A channel has started to be dug on the low tide to assist in seeing the 10-tonne beached whale get beyond the breakers on a high tide.

A 1.68m high tide will rise on Saturday night at 9pm.  

"The conditions today are such that it's just impossible to attempt to tow this whale out to sea," Lawrence Orel from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said. 

"The surf is too big, it's just too dangerous to put people in and we just don't have the opportunity to get a vessel in close enough. 

"It's likely these conditions will continue for some days so we will continue to monitor the animal and just see what the options may be. 

"But the longer it is on the beach there is the less likelihood of a positive outcome."

Humpback whale stranded on Sawtell Beach.
Humpback whale stranded on Sawtell Beach. Rachel Vercoe

The juvenile whale has been stranded on the beach now for more than 30 hours. 

Vets on the beach say the whale is still in good health and rescuers will remain on the beach tending to the whale and helping to keep it upright so it can continue to breathe.

"The humpback whale was in the surf zone making it very difficult for experts to get near the animal," NPWS senior wildlife officer Susan Crocetti said.

"We have a highly experienced team of specialists assisting with this response and they are doing everything possible to give this whale the best chance of survival."

If the whale's condition had not deteriorated by first light today, rescuers had planned to refloat it at high tide, which is scheduled for just after 8am.

But big swells mean rescuers must now wait to tow the whale out to sea.

Rescuers were pleased the whale survived the night and have dug around it this morning to try and make it more comfortable while teams wait for 

National media have today descended on Sawtell to report on the whale's plight.


FRIDAY 5.45PM: RESCUERS are hoping to be able to tow out the stranded humpback in tomorrow morning's high tide.

Lawrence Orel, from NPWS, said the whale beached at Sawtell Beach was in "good enough condition to attempt to release tomorrow on the morning's high tide".

Mr Orel said rescue crews would get out of the surf overnight to ensure personal safety but would continue to monitor the animal.

He said its breathing had remained steady throughout the day.

Mr Orel said there were no obvious signs to suggest why the whale had become stranded.

"It doesn't have obvious injuries such as boat strike or entanglements," he said.

"There is also a chance that it may return, because we just don't know what the underlying cause is that brought this animal to shore."

Hundreds gathered around the Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club and beach to watch the rescue effort in the heavy rain. 

The whale is stranded metres from the shore and is rolling from side to side in the breakers.

Mr Orel said this was little to worry about and could help restore the animal's sense of equilibrium, so long as it stayed upright. 


FRIDAY 3PM: WITH the tide now on the rise, rescuers are putting in a concerted effort to keep the stranded humpback whale cool and upright.

ORRCA vice-president Shona Lorigan said the whale's condition is considered stable.

"It's the best condition it could be," Ms Lorigan said.

She said basic first aid had been applied to the mammal, which is thought to weigh about 10 tonnes, but the exact cause to why it became stranded was uncertain.

Ms Lorigan said the young whale was likely on its first migration. She said juvenile whales often swam in circles and took a more "haphazard" route towards Queensland than older whales.

She said sea conditions could also have been at play in the stranding, with an east coast low moving in.

"It's a time of high risk," Ms Lorigan said.

She said the situation was dangerous for both the whale and rescuers. If the whale rolled it could have fatal consequences.

FRIDAY 1PM: RESCUE services are working together to in an attempt to rescue stranded humpback.

Experts from National Parks and Wildlife Services, ORRCA and Dolphin Marine Magic used ropes in a bid to re-position the stranded young whale.

A low tide of 0.47m is expected to hit 1.41pm.

FRIDAY 11AM: IT IS understood as the tide falls, the surf break could lead to a precarious situation for the stranded whale.

With less of the humpback whale's weight supported by the water, more pressure will be applied to its internal organs. 

Authorities are doing everything they can to stabilise the oceanic mammal. 

FRIDAY 10AM: AUTHORITIES are waiting on a vet to do a full prognosis on the humpback whale.

It is understood the whale is a juvenile about a year old and measures about six metres.

Dolphin Marine Magic, Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia and National Parks and Wildlife Services are working together to keep the whale stable.

A National Parks and Wildlife Services spokeswoman said resident surfers had been in the water with the animal for hours.

She said once it is fully beached with the falling tide, a marquee will be put over it to allow a full prognosis. 

UPDATE: WITH the tide dropping rescuers are trying to keep the humpback whale upright so it can breath.

One witness, Frank Watkins, told the ABC a large group of people were trying to rescue the whale.

"It's still gasping for breath, you can see the air coming out," Mr Watkins told the ABC.

Beachgoers spotted the animal in the breakers about 7am.

FRIDAY 9.20AM: A WHALE has been beached at Sawtell Beach.

The humpback whale has drawn the attention of a large crowd of about 50 beach-goers in front of the Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club.


A witness said Department of Parks and Wildlife authorities are in the surf, metres from shore, assessing the whale.

Authorities are restricting access to the whale.

More to come.

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