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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
Rotting whale beached by low tide
The dead whale in the Solent
The dead whale may be diseased and the public is urged to stay away
Sailors are being warned to be on the look-out for the body of a large dead whale that is beached in the Solent.

The 80ft (25m) creature poses a danger to vessels and is fast becoming a health hazard, say coastguards.

A tug boat crew attempted to pull the fin whale to shore at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, but must now wait until the tide comes in at 0130 BST on Tuesday.

Coastguards are warning the public to stay away from the carcass, which is rotting badly and may be diseased.

The whale itself is in an advanced state of decomposition and has a considerable smell
Sophia Exelby, Crown Receiver of Wreck
Solent Coastguard has been issuing four warnings an hour to shipping since the whale was first spotted off Gosport on Sunday.

Sophia Exelby, the Crown Receiver of Wreck, said the current warm weather means it must be beached before it becomes further decomposed.

The slipway at Lee-on-Solent will be closed while the creature is lifted in by a 30 tonne crane.

Ms Exelby said: "The whale itself is in an advanced state of decomposition and has a considerable smell.

"Additionally there are some diseases which are transferable between humans and whales, known as zoonoses, which mean that direct contact with the whale could pose a threat to human health."

'Oh crikey'

Raymond Brettle, 54, a retired airline operations manager, was out fishing with a friend in a dinghy on Sunday when they spotted the whale, thinking it was an upturned boat.

Mr Brettle, of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, told BBC News Online: "We thought, 'oh crikey, we better go and take a look', despite it being calm waters.

"So we motored across, it was about half-a-mile away, and realised it was a whale."

"I have to say we did hold back a little bit but it did look pretty bloated," he said.

While a number of whales are washed up on the east coast of England, strandings on the south are rare.

In January 2003, a 15ft minke whale washed ashore at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.

Experts from the Natural History Museum in London are interested in carrying out a post-mortem examination on the latest creature to find out more about how it died.

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