Pilot whales stranding site, Deganwy

Pilot whales stranding site, Deganwy

deganwy_pilot_whales_and_crowdPilot whales were noticed in the Conwy estuary on 31 August 1944. By the following morning, 20 of them had beached just below the high-water mark: 15 here at Deganwy and three on Morfa Conwy beach opposite. Two had passed under the Conwy bridges to Glan Conwy. At least eight were still alive. The local press later reported that 27 whales had beached.

Many sightseers arrived, as shown in the photo on the right (courtesy of Conwy Archive Service, CCBC). Children tried to drag the smaller whales into the sea. On the next high tide, a concerted effort to re-float the mammals involved tractors, soldiers from Morfa Conwy army camp and fishermen Benjamin Craven and Carl Parkinson. Most of the whales were towed out to sea. One, 4.5 metres (15ft) long, was dismembered and buried by council workers, who each got a £1 gratuity for their efforts.

deganwy_pilot_whaleThe photo on the left (courtesy of Conwy Archive Service, CCBC) shows one of the smaller whales. The background structures mark the site where Mulberry harbour sections were made for the D-Day landings of summer 1944.

Renowned Bangor University zoologist Professor FW Rogers Brambell and his colleague L H Jackson measured nine male and seven female whales. The largest was six metres (20ft) long. They conducted post mortems which yielded useful scientific records of pilot whales’ internal structure.

Mr Jackson suggested that the whales – possibly stragglers from a larger herd – had been driven towards land by strong winds and had become exhausted at Traeth Lafan, the shallows north of Llanfairfechan, before they entered the Conwy estuary.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of Deganwy History Group

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