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Dead sperm whales surface at Muness

One of the sperm whales at Muness on Sunday. Photo: Robbie Brookes

TWO dead sperm whales washed up in a small voe in the south east of Unst in Shetland on Sunday.

A Uyeasound couple discovered the mammals – the largest an adult male more than 40 feet long, the smaller thought to be a juvenile male – at Scollawick, Muness.

Wildlife photographer Robbie Brookes said he went down to see the whales after a call from fellow nature enthusiast Brydon Thomason and was “quite stunned how large they were”.

Brookes said the whales “didn’t appear to be too far gone” and apart from numerous scratches there were no obvious injuries on the sides that were visible.

Karen Hall of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said the larger of the two appeared to be much further decomposed, with its flesh beginning to come away from its blubber.

“It’s strange they both came ashore at the same place,” she said.

“There’s no indication that it was a live stranding for the other one, but it looks a lot fresher.”

Hall said SNH had spoken to the veterinary college in Inverness about the possibility of conducting a post mortem. Talks will also take place with Shetland Islands Council’s environmental health department about whether the carcasses may need to be moved away from the area.

She said it was difficult to say what had caused the animals’ death, but they appeared to have died at sea and then drifted to the shore.

Sperm whales tend to live on the continental shelf and “we tend to get them coming into Shetland if there’s food available”, Hall added.

Karen Hall of SNH said it appeared the sperm whales had died at sea before drifting to the shore. Photo: Robbie Brookes