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A Mass Stranding Left This New Zealand Beach Covered With Over 140 Dead Whale


Scientists have an imprecise understanding of the obscure phenomenon of mass whale strandings, when large numbers of the marine mammals suddenly beach themselves – often their final acts.

There are, of course, many reasons a whale would find itself on a beach: illness or injury that leaves them at the mercy of ocean currents and strong waves; a sudden dart into shallow water to escape a predator or pursue prey; even echolocation errors or confusion over quickly falling tides, which can doom them.

But such strandings are mostly solo occurrences; they usually do not involve scores of whales.

A hiker’s grim discovery in New Zealand’s Mason Bay over the weekend remains a heartbreaking mystery.

There, lying in a jagged line on the remote beach, were more than 140 immobile animals: two full pods of pilot whales, dead or dying in the sun.

Because of the remote location – Mason Bay is on New Zealand’s southernmost island, which has a population of fewer than 400 – authorities said they weren’t able to gather enough people to help the whales get back into the Pacific Ocean in time.

That left just one option: help the whales die.

„Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,“ Ren Leppens, the Rakiura operations manager for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, said in a statement.