List of Norfolk Cetaceans


The records below form an outline of sightings and strandings on the Norfolk coastline. It is intended the record will be updated once each year as records are reported or published.


Minke Whale       Balaenoptera acutorostrata


1927 23rd November Caister measuring 29 feet long

1933 29th November Hunstanton

1942 25th November Wells

1943 13th October Between Waxham and Sea Palling 16′ 7″ two and half tons – recorded as the 15th for Norfolk.

1959 24th May Waxham

1962 Unconfirmed report

1969 25th July Weybourne

1971 16th July Horsey visited by several hundred people. Had been dead perhaps a moth. Had been seen off Lincolnshire on the 14th July near the Dudgon lightship and south of Hasbro’ lightship. It was buried on the beach by Smallburgh RDC

1977 Heacham

2013 16th June Great Yarmouth

2013 22nd November Cromer

Minke Whale

2013 25th November Sea Palling

2013 11 25 Minke Whale Sea Palling Norfolk_Z5A3694a


1962 4th February North Wooton Marshes an uncertain sighting of a 30′ long individual

1962 6th February King’s Lynn an uncertain sighting of a 30′ long individual

1988 June Holme seen swimming offshore

1991 Seen from a North Sea Platform

1997 2nd September three sightings indicated one individual passed offshore from Weybourne to Sheringham. Circa 2 miles offshore first seen at 9:20am swimming east seen every 3 to 4 minutes over a 15 minute period. Apparently it passed close to Sheringham crab fishermen on their boat

2008 22nd July A single off Walcott. Reported to have a small blow like a fine puff of steam

2013 One seen from a boat in The Wash


Fin Whale       Balaenoptera physalus


2003 January an upper jawbone found by Godfrey Sayers near a Sperm Whale Carcass was identified as being from this species.


1998 11th April an animal thought to be this species was seen on the edge of squalls off Cley beach. The animal broke the surface 4 times between 09:40 and 10:00 hours.


Sei Whale       Balaenoptera borealis


1971 16th July Waxham Gap measuring 44 feet long.

The identification and occurrence of this individual is being called into question. If further details are not forthcoming it may in time be removed.


Humpback Whale        Megaptera novaeangliae


2013 29th October The first for the county was first seen 600m off Hemsby. It or maybe two were intermittently seen on several dates to the 17th November. Reported off Cromer on 30th October but more often off Sea Palling, Waxham and Horsey.

Photo Copywrite: Andrew Williamson




Sperm Whale       Physeter macrocephalus


1626 June Hunstanton

1646 Holme One or more cast ashore with one at Wells with another 8 or 9

1652 May Great Yarmouth

1753 Two near Kings Lynn

1986 29th/30th November Holkham measuring 50 feet

1991 12th November Scolt Head and later at Brancaster measuring 50 feet estimated at 40 tons

1993 2nd December a female was stranded in the wash at Heacham and died after coming ashore. The corpse was then washed out to sea on the evening tide.

2003 23rd January found dead in the Great Ouse River stuck on a sandbar. The carcass of this male was towed to Heacham for disposal but refloated on a high tide and was again washed up at Stiffkey. On 9th December 2013 a Caudal Chevron bone from a Sperm Whale was washed up on the saltmarsh after a large storm surge. It was thought it was probably from this animal.

Whale 1 Whale2 Whale3 Whale4

2003 04 08 Sperm Whale Stiffkey Marshes Norfolk Tony Eadson via EDP

Taken by the EDP after the animal had moved to Stiffkey on 8th April 2003

2004 31st January 60 foot individual found dead at Holme was moved by the tide along the coast to Thornham harbour.

2006 16th February Brancaster then washed up at Scolt Head Island on the 19th February. This is reported to have been one of a group of 20 Sperm Whales that had become disorientated in the southern part of the North Sea. Several others were washed up in Lincolnshire and Humberside.

2011 24th December discovered by a dog walker on Hunstanton beach. This 16.7m long whale may have been the dead individual seen floating off Holbeach several weeks before.

24th December 2011 Sperm Whale Hunstanton Dave Powell

Sperm Whale 24th December 2011 Hunstanton – Photo by Dave Powell


1998 19th September A whale seen off Sheringham 10:30 to 11:00 was thought to be this species. The coarseness of the dark skin lack of a substantial dorsal fin and bumpy back all were good pointers to its identification.


Northern Bottlenose Whale       Hyperoodon ampullanus


1914 5th September Terrington

1941 November Snettisham

1942 28th June Snettisham

1949 22nd March Holkham measuring 40 feet long

1951 Details unknown

1962 10th July Holkham two individuals each 17′ long

1978 August 23′ long male drifted up the Nene as far as Wisbech at the same time a 21′ female was stranded at Laverton Marsh Lincs

1988 3rd August Scolt Head A 22′ long individual estimated to have been dead between one and two weeks

2002 Happisburgh


2010 August The Wash sightings reported of two individuals sighted from a boat on three separate occasions over a week long period.

Maximise Video to view

2011 Report from Hunstanton Seafront


Cuvier’s Beaked Whale       Ziphius cavirostris


2002 20th June South of Walcott an individual Swam ashore. Despite attempts to rescue it the animal unfortunately died at 10pm that evening. It measured 5.65m in length. The front teeth were loose indicating this was an old animal.


Sowerby’s Beaked Whale       Mesoplodon bidens


1952 8th August Happisburgh measuring 10 feet 6 inches long

2009 August 13th Blakeney Point found stranded and subsequently refloated but found dead a few days later on Stiffkey Marshes.

2011 August 15th a young female was found alive on the saltmarsh at Thornham Point and was subsequently euthanized.

2011 August 16th a long dead animal; another female was washed up on Scolt Head Island.

19th August 2011 Soweby's Beaked Whale Scolt Head Chris Johnson

Sowerby’s Beaked Whale 19th August 2011 Scolt Head Island photo by Chris Johnson

2012 August 18th dead on Brancaster beach. This individual measured 4.6m and was possibly a male.

2012 August 23rd washed up on Scolt Head Island long dead.


Harbour Porpoise       Phocoena phocoena


Commonly found Dead


Occurs all year round off Norfolk in decreasing numbers. According to statistics compiled by Sheringham Bird Observatory the best months to see this species are February, March and October. Notable sightings follow:

1960 inland sightings are rare an animal was filmed on the Nene at the Dog and Doublet sluice.

1961 23rd June an extremely large school took between ten and 15 minutes to pass 50 yards off Cromer going east. Sadly such occurrences’ are unlikely to be repeated.

1990 August A sighting at Welney Reserve was apparently a genuine sighting.


Bottlenose Dolphins       Tursiops truncates


1920 January Blakeney Point

1939 29th November Cromer

1942 15th May Holme

1942 19th May Caister

1945 18th January Happisburgh

1945 22nd January Hemsby measuring 11 feet long

1966 April Horsey

1966 July Scolt Head

1966 27th September Downham Market on the Great Ouse

1967 February Hemsby taken to the Castle Museum

2008 22nd March Heacham report on the Seaquest Forum of a beached individual was thought to be this species but the identification couldn’t be confirmed.


1985 Holme

1998 20th August a battleship grey Dolphin with no white was probably this species.

2004 15th September 3+ east at Titchwell later possibly same Circa 10 East at Cley

2008 4th July Seen by surveyors working for a consultancy 10 miles north of Blakeney Point

2008 7th July Seen close inshore off Walcott which surfaced to blow 50m offshore in the early hours of the morning before leaping clear of the water and heading back out to sea.

2010 February Holme a rumour of a sighting from land.

2012 10th June A group of five to eight Dolphins seen swimming fast off Happisburgh were considered to be this species.

2013 16th March Six seen at 10:29am close inshore moving quickly off Titchwell


Common Dolphin       Delphinus delphis


1943 25th October Winterton measuring 5 feet 6 inches in length

1944 19th May Hemsby 5’6″ in length

1947 4th November River Nene a school of about 20 entered the river and went upstream as far as Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire. Several days later others appeared in the Thames.

1972 December A skull found on Holkham Beach was probably this species

1996 North Norfolk Coast two dead individuals


1987 10th September Scolt Head Island

1995 23rd June Great Yarmouth single offshore


White-beaked Dolphin       Lagenorynchus albirostris


1919 Sea Palling

1919 Great Yarmouth

1925 Happisburgh

1930 Hunstanton

1956 Happisburgh

1960 24th December Waxham

1961 29th April East Runton 6′ individual

1962 Holme Fully Grown Adult

1963 January Runton Hind part of a small one washed ashore during gales that was thought to have been damaged by a ships propeller.

1964 Skull washed up at Happisburgh

1968 11th or 12th March Blakeney Point a total of eight stranded on sandbars after coming to shelter from rough seas. They were spread over a mile of beach. One returned to the sea was thought to have stranded a few days later at Sheringham. The average length was just under 10′ one made a TV appearance at the Castle Museum.

1975 A Skeleton of a deformed adult male dug from the sand between Holme and South Hunstanton

1978 March Titchwell one washed up dead

1980 Sherringham

1980 May Holme

1986 Scolt Head

1986 Holkham

1988 Overstrand

1991 Titchwell Stranded alive and refloated

1992 17th June two were stranded at Holme

1994 25th May one stranded at Gorleston

1995 16th June at Eccles

1995 27th June at Bacton

1995 29th June at Sheringham

1995 2nd July two one at Caister and one at Great Yarmouth

1999 found dead on the beach at Holkham

2010 23rd October Blakeney Point. Initially identified as a 2.7m long female Bottlenose Dolphin it was later identified correctly from photographs. The high tide removed the corpse an it was later found washed up on Stiffkey Marsh near Freshers Creek.

2013 28th June One found dead on the beach at Holkham

2013 06 28 White-beaked Dolphin Holkham Roger Belsten

Photo by Roger Belsten


1962 Early September Holkham a 7′ individual passed within a few yards of bathers

2005 6th September A group of 30 or so individuals were seen by D Brown in association with Harbour Porpoise and feeding Gannets some 1000m off Horsey.


Atlantic White Sided Dolphin       Leucopleurus acutus


2006 November Blakeney washed ashore and found by J T Tyzer


2012 18th August A group of six dolphins off Scratby one of which jumped clear of the water may have been this species.


Long finned Pilot Whale       Globicephala melas


1982 25th November Eccles measuring 9 feet long near Castle Acre Farm found after 20 stranded on a sand bank off the mouth of river Haven near Boston

1982 22nd December Stiffkey measuring 12 feet long

1983 13th February Holkham

1983 13th February Scolt Head measuring 16 feet long

1985 11th March Holme

1992 13th December a 5.75m long male found dead on Scolt Head Island


1972 20th August Cley A group of 8 or more over 20′ long were considered to be this species

1987 23rd September A record of three individuals heading east seen just off Paston then Walcott.

1991 8th May ‘A school’ off Holme

2008 5th September a reported sighting of 2 off Holme on Birdline East Anglia was never qualified.


Orca       Orcinus orca


1894 19th November Great Yarmouth A ‘Grampus’ brought ashore by a Herring drifter was autopsied in Cambridge. The detailed description is of a very young un-weaned female. This is one of two identical animals the first being caught by a Herring drifter on 14th November of the same year in a similar manner by a Lowestoft boat but landed at Great Yarmouth. This animal disappeared a day or so after it was exhibited on the quayside.


False Killer Whale       Pseudorca crassidens


1935 18th November Wooton Creek A school of eight individuals measuring between 14 and 18 feet long were part of an east coast invasion



Mammals of Norfolk N&NNS

Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report 1991 p333 “Stranded Whales on the Norfolk Coast 1913-1991” by M J Seago

Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report 1996 p264 “Stranded Whales on the Norfolk Coast 1992-1995” by M J Seago

Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. 2013

Sheringham Bird Observatory Report 1997

Sightings and reports as reported to Seawatch Foundation, and to the county recorder.


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