Extraordinary video footage has shown the moment a decomposing whale is lifted from the waters of a port in Belgium after concerns that it was about to explode.
The unfortunate ten-metre long marine mammal is believed to have been killed after being struck by a ship near the Port of Antwerp.
The clip shows the crane lifting the massive carcass out of the sea, with vessels prevented from docking at the harbour while the grisly task was completed.
It was earlier spotted floating near the DP World terminal in an area of Antwerp known as Deurganckdok.
An initial attempt to retrieve the whale using a boat failed because the corpse proved too heavy for the vessel.
However, once the crane was moved, a second proved successful, DP World confirmed.
A company spokesman said: “This type of discovery is quite rare.
“The last time we found a cetacean corpse in Belgium was in 2015 in the port of Ghent. In Antwerp, it dates back to 2009.”
Evelyn Tiebos of the port authority told Belgian broadcaster 7 Sur 7: “The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, in collaboration with the universities of Antwerp and Ghent, will be carrying out research on the whale.”
There have been several documented cases of whales exploding, especially in instances where the animal in question beaches itself.
In 2016, one of three sperm whales which washed up on a beach in Skegness, Lincolnshire “exploded” while marine biologists undertook an autopsy to determine its cause of death.
Scientists were using a probe when there was a “huge blast of air”, the BBC reported at the time.
In 1928, Harold L Anfenger and MC Hutton, a pair of American entrepreneurs, accidentally blew up a whale carcass as they tried to preserve it for a sideshow.
The explosion was triggered when the embalmer they hired badly misjudged the balance of salt and formaldehyde required to preserve the specimen.
More than 50 whales died on Isle of Lewis, off the Scottish mainland, last month after becoming stranded there.
Marine rescuers were called to the scene at Traigh Mhor in North Tolsta to reports that multiple mammals were in difficulty there on Sunday morning – with the sad incident apparently triggered by a lone female getting into trouble while giving birth.
A statement issued by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said: “Initial reports suggested there were around 55 animals consisting of both adults and calves, however shortly after this, it was reported that only 15 were still alive.
“One of the dead whales appeared to have had a vaginal prolapse – so it’s currently suspected that the whole pod stranded due to one female giving birth. Pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds, so often when one whale gets into difficulty and strands, the rest follow.”
Despite attempts to save them, all the animals were sadly euthanised.