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Historical UK cetacean strandings dataset (1913-1989)

Over 100 years ago, the Natural History Museum created a project to document the cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) stranded on British beaches. Annual reports were submitted to the UK Government from 1913, and in the introduction to the first report, the founder Sir Sidney F. Harmer wrote, “The instruction to the Receivers of Wrecks, issued by the Board of Trade in 1912, at the request of the Trustees of the British Museum to send telegraphic Reports of the strandings of specimens of Whales to the Museum has resulted in the collection of a number of records of British Cetacea.” The Museum continues to be part of efforts to record stranded cetaceans to this day as one of the partners of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).

This dataset is the historical portion of these records and covers the period from 1913 to 1989. In 1990 the CSIP partnership was created, so please contact them for data from 1990 ( The data have been cleaned as follows.

  • Grid references were converted to latitude and longitude
  • Taxonomy for scientific names was corrected to that of Reid et al 2003 (Atlas of Cetacean distribution in north-west European waters).
  • Dates were standardised to YYYY-MM-DD format
  • Typos were corrected

Grid references were converted by Louise Allan. All other modifications were carried out by Ellen J Coombs under the guidance of Richard C Sabin and Natalie Cooper.

Further information on cetacean strandings and the NHM are available here:

We thank the members of the public and HM Coastguards who took the time to report strandings to us over the last 100 years (originally by filling out postcards!). We also thank the numerous UK conservation organisations and their dedicated volunteers. Without their efforts this dataset would not exist.

Data and Resources

Cite this as

Natural History Museum (2018). Historical UK cetacean strandings dataset (1913-1989) [Data set]. Natural History Museum.
Retrieved: 13:13 25 Jun 2024 (UTC) BibTeX

Additional Info

Field Value
Affiliation Natural History Museum
Primary contributors
Natural History Museum ( 039zvsn29)
Other contributors
Temporal extent 1913-1989
Last updated 7 August 2019
Last resource update 7 August 2019 (UK cetacean strandings 1913-1989)
Created 13 April 2018
License Creative Commons Attribution