Bleak scene: The creatures are male and about the same age as a number of others who have washed up on the coast of northern Europe over the last few weeks

Bleak scene: The creatures are male and about the same age as a number of others who have washed up on the coast of northern Europe over the last few weeks
Eight dead sperm whales have died after they were washed up on a German beach today, taking the total number of dead whales to 23 after a devastating number of beachings during the past month across northern Europe.

The eight whales found near the northern town of Friedrichskoog were young bulls, around the same age as the animals discovered three weeks ago at various North Sea spots.

They were lying close to each other in the mudflats of a restricted area of the Wadden Sea national park, the Schleswig-Holstein regional environmental authority said in a statement.

Since the 1990s, a total of 82 sperm wales have been found stranded in the Wadden Sea in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.

The sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales, and the largest toothed predator.It can measure up to 20 metres (67 feet) long and weigh over 50 tonnes.

There are various theories why the whales end up in the North Sea rather than the Atlantic - but the nutrient-poor waters can prove catastrophic for them

There are various theories why the whales end up in the North Sea rather than the Atlantic - but the nutrient-poor waters can prove catastrophic for them

Shocking: At least 23 whales have been stranded across the coastline of northern Europe and may have come from a single whale pod

Shocking: At least 23 whales have been stranded across the coastline of northern Europe and may have come from a single whale pod

'The males of this population spend their winters in the north Atlantic.During their migrations, individual animals mistakenly wind up in the shallow and nutrient-poor North Sea,' the authority said.

The shallow water makes it difficult for them to use their acoustic orientation to navigate and many become beached.

Wildlife protection groups also blame the underwater noise from sea traffic and oil platforms for interfering with acoustic signals.

The devastating news comes as three of the dead sperm whales which were washed up on a British beach were covered in sand to stop them being moved by the tide and later taken to a landfill site to rot.

Sombre: Eight sperm whales were washed up on this beach near the northern town of Friedrichskoog in Germany

Sombre: Eight sperm whales were washed up on this beach near the northern town of Friedrichskoog in Germany
The majestic creatures are thought to have died at sea before beaching at Skegness in Lincolnshire and have since become something of a gory tourist attraction, with people taking selfies with the corpses and some scavengers even attempting to cut off 'trophies' from the creatures.

East Lindsey District Council Council workers covered up the bodies with sand to stop them being moved by the high tide and a spokesman confirmed they will then be taken to a landfill site.

'We are well rehearsed when it comes to removing whales from the beach, we have had a few down the years including one which is bigger,' a council spokesman said. 'The whale at Lagoon Walk, which was further out on its own, moved overnight in the high tide so it is now further up the beach.

'We are preparing to move the whales, but it won't be today. Today, we are bringing in tractors to cover the whales in sand so they don't move again.

'Because there are three of them we need to find landfill that's deep enough. We are almost there but we have to do it properly.

'We are putting sand on them this afternoon because if we don't they could move further along the beach where it might be more difficult to reach them.'

The bodies of the whales were cordoned off by council workers in a bid to protect the carcasses as they are examined by scientists trying to work out why they died.

A build-up of methane gas later caused one of the whales to explode as marine biologists collecting samples for a post-mortem examination cut at its skin and blubber, with shocked witnesses describing a bang and a 'huge blast of air' followed by a foul stench.

The three whale carcasses were found on the Skegness beach on Sunday morning, after another was washed up on beach in Hunstantonm, Norfolk, last Friday.

A fifth whale was also found at former RAF bombing range in nearby Wainfleet - five miles from Skegness - last Monday, and is believed to be from the same pod.

Graffiti has been sprayed on the bodies of two of the whales on the beach near Gibraltar Point in Skegness. Messages reading 'Fukushima RIP', 'CND' and 'man's fault' have been written in white lettering on the bodies of the whales.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London were carrying out post mortem examinations on the whales yesterday, and experts are investigating whether the group are linked to 12 sperm whales that have washed up on the Dutch island of Texel and the German islands of Wangerooge and Helgoland since January 11.

Samples have been collected from four of the five whales, but the team from the Zoological Society were struggling to reach the fifth whale, which was washed up yesterday on a former Ministry of Defence bombing range, which could contain live explosives.

The samples will then be brought back to London to be analysed in the hope that this could explain why the whales died.

It is thought that the sperm whales accidentally entered the North Sea - where the sea floor is not particularly deep.

As the animals rely on sonar to navigate, when they end up in a shallow sandy seabed, they can become disorientated and die.

Richard Johnson of the UK Coastguard said: 'We believe that the three whales at Skegness died at sea and then washed ashore.

'We are advising members of the public to stay away from the beach. We have informed the Receiver of Wreck and we are expecting an officer from the Zoological Society of London to attend the scene and carry out tests on the whales.'