Getty Photographer Matt Cardy on a stranded fin whale that died off the St Austell coast

13 photos

Getty photographer Matt Cardy photographed a fin whale that was stranded on a beach off the St Austell coast in England on August 13.

He says it was the first time for him photographing a distressed whale and a first time for most of the rescuers to have dealt with such a large mammal at 20 meters (65 ft). Fin whales are the second largest animal on the planet and an endangered species.

According to Cardy, he was listening to the 7 p.m. BBC headlines in his car when the broadcast reported news of the whale. A quick check of his satellite navigation, revealed that he was less than an hour away, so he headed to the beach – a random chance that he was so close that evening.

Below, he describes the surreal scene.

When I arrived, it was bedlam. Cars were parked everywhere and people were making their way to the beach. The whale had been reported only a few hours before and was already attracting a large crowd of onlookers. It had washed up on a private beach (unusual in the UK) and they had closed the car park. Luckily, I showed my press card and talked the security guards into letting me drive rather than walk the 30 minutes down the path to the beach. That was critical as the sun had set and the light was fading fast. As I got onto the beach, hundreds of people were lining a cordon that had been set up to give the animal some space.

The crowd were very somber and quiet. As soon as I arrived, I was told that there was little anybody could do as the animal was too sick to be helped.

I was allowed into the cordon to photograph the whale at a much nearer distance. I used a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 and a 24-105mm lens on 2x 5D Mark II’s, shifting to 3200 ISO at a 60/sec. Eventually, the animal went through what we later realized were its death throes, opening its mouth and swashing its tail. After 15 minutes or so, it settled down, and the rescuers examined it and pronounced it dead.

It was a very sad end to an event that had happened all really quickly.

Edited by Stokely Baksh

DAILY MAIL: Whale dies on Cornish beach despite desperate efforts to save 65ft mammal which was ‘incredibly undernourished’