Hyperoodon ampullatus

A few weeks ago on a holiday to Scotland I had the opportunity to twice visit one of the finest beaches in the land at Sandwood Bay in Sutherland.

A beach is a beach I hear you cry, what makes this one so different. Well, probably the four mile walk it takes to get to it.

The land is owned by a conservation organisation, The John Muir Trust. Hence, no road, toilets, tea bar or camper vans cluttering up this place of beauty. It really is stunning, a mile long with the wild Atlantic crashing against its shore. Behind it are broad acres of sand dunes and behind them the large expanse of Sandwood Loch.

It can get quite busy but the consolation I guess is that the beach is huge and has enough space for everyone. I visit to stroll, look in rock pools, swim in the loch behind the dunes or on wild days just to sit and marvel at the power of the sea as it conflicts with the land.

This holiday on my first visit I found what on first impressions was the bones of a large animal. I placed my walking pole next to it for scale. I though I might utilise social media to try and identify it. I sent a tweet to the owners of the land the John Muir Trust and the Natural History Museum in London.

I was delighted when the museum got back to me having identified the find. The Principal Curator of Mammals identified it as the skull of a northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus).

I was happy, having spent a lifetime beachcombing this was one of the most interesting things that I have found. This was of course tinged with sadness as it was the first whale that I had seen and was unfortunately dead.


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