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Qinetiq named as nation mourns end of whale's flotation

Boffins, RN deny 'friendly-fire' depth-charging

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Fate can be a dreadful thing. Gravy train... er, defence contractor Qinetiq is poised to float with uncountable squillions expected for all concerned, and - purely coincidentally - the marketing bunnies have been busy over the past year or twain enhancing the outfit's imagery as a purveyor of shiny high tech Q-type secret weaponry. But now - argh! - could it be planet-despoiling wildlife-terminating whale depth-charging Q-type weaponry?

And if the late Thames Whale was indeed depth-charged, then legal experts reckon that it was the Queen's whale at time of depth-charging. Cripes...

According to today's Times, sonar and "military explosions" may be to blame for disorientating London's best-loved marine mammal. Sonar (usually, the US Navy's sonar) is frequently accused of responsibility for whale beachings, so it's by no means unusual that it should figure in the nation's agonised inquest. But as culprits, "military explosions" are less usual.

The Times claims Kent coast residents and marine scientists have suggested that the whale could have been confused by "huge explosions" from a Qinetiq operated MoD site at Shoeburyness range last week. "On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, it was like being in the middle of a war zone," said Herne Bay resident Tony Wilkinson, 65. And he's not even a whale.

And if the whale was the subject of military action, then it seems probable that this was a 'friendly fire' incident. The Guardian''s redoubtable legal correspondent Marcel Berlins tells us that live whales, under a statute of 1324, are classed as 'fishes royal', so are the Queen's property, if not quite family. Dead whales, Berlins continues, are the property of the Receiver of Wrecks, and this not being the usual protocol followed for royal funerals, we feel sure that the whale wasn't family.

Any explosions at Shoeburyness could not possibly have affected the whale, said a Qinetiq spokeswoman, describing the claims as "opportunistic" (much like this story, indeed). The Royal Navy also appears to be denying responsibility. Nevertheless, there should surely be a finquest. ®

* A public-spirited well wisher draws our attention to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which didn't quite succeed in saving the whale, but which did incur substantial costs, including a £300 parking fine, while trying. BDMLR is trying to recoup costs by auctioning the watering can used to douse the whale on eBay. The link above or an eBay search for "whale watering can" should see you alright. At least it's not the water...

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