150 Whales Mysteriously Beached on Australian Shore, Few Survivors
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
We regret to report a recent mass animal death involving more than 150 short-finned pilot whales that stranded en masse at Hamelin Bay on the west coast of Australia early Friday morning, local time.
Most of the whales did not survive after beaching themselves, according to Jeremy Chick, incident controller at Western Australia’s Parks & Wildlife Service.
Roughly 100 authorities and trained volunteers raced to save the 15 whales that were still alive after the stranding. Six of the survivors were returned to sea late in the afternoon.
The pod of whales collided on the beach and the boulder-strewn terrain sadly made it difficult for rescuers to carry the whales back into the water. Additionally, the surviving whales were surrounded by the deceased whales making rescue efforts that much more difficult. To make matters worse, the seas were particularly rough that day, making for the perfect storm.
Rescuers described a distressing scene where after the effort to save one whale was exhausted, the whale would come back around and get stranded again. Hamelin Beach remained closed for a time due to the likelihood of increased shark activity because the dead whales would attract them.
ABC AU quoted UK visitor Barrie Brickle who was on the scene:
[Volunteers] seem to drag them up onto the beach, get them the right way up and then they seem to revive. But the ones I’ve seen that are back in the water, they actually come back around and beach themselves again.
I watched one of them—it happened three times but still it wouldn’t go back to sea.
— ITV News (@itvnews) March 23, 2018
EcoWatch notes that the large number of beached whales is unusual, as a pod itself would usually contain less than 100 whales. This is one of the largest strandings in recent history for the area:
The Parks & Wildlife Service said the migrating mammals have stranded en masse before—nine whales were found dead after stranding at Albany’s Ledge Point in November 1984 and 38 short-finned pilot whales stranded in April 1991 at Sandy Point, north of Broome.
However, Reuters reported that the large number this time is unusual.
The largest mass stranding of whales in the state was in 1996 when 320 long-finned pilot whales stranded themselves in Dunsborough.
So far, it is a mystery why this happened. Parks & Wildlife Service officers are taking DNA samples from the deceased whales to root out potential causes.
In recent years, sonar testing and HAARP technology has come under fire due to the possibility of disrupting whale and dolphin communication.
This is only a speculatory note – but an interesting coincidence to some.
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