Viking heritage halts whale burials

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The burial of 11 dead whales on an Orkney island today has been postponed because the chosen site has turned out to be a Viking settlement.

Environmental health officers are to travel to the north island of Sanday, where the sperm whales beached and died, to find another location for the disposal of the carcasses, each weighing about 50 tonnes.

A council spokesman said last night: "The work is going to be put on hold because the site earmarked for the trench is a partially-excavated Viking settlement. We will have to find another place."

Earth-moving equipment was shipped from Kirkwall to Sanday yesterday to create a huge trench three metres deep by 15 metres wide and 30 metres long to accommodate the dead whales, which became stranded last week.

Vets have taken samples from the carcasses, but the council spokesman said: "We have no reason to believe that they are diseased."

However, warning notices have been posted around the beach and workers who will dispose of the whales will wear protective clothing. The mammals will be dragged up the beach, laid in the trench, sprayed with disinfectant and buried.