Troubling images have emerged showing dozens of dead whales lying on a beach in western Iceland.
The terribly sad photographs were taken by helicopter pilot David Schwarzhans, who spotted the whales while flying over a beach at Longufjorur, on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Police officers from the nearby town of Stykkisholmur have reportedly now been made aware of this grim discovery.
At the time of writing, it is unclear how many beached whales were seen at Longufjorur. The area itself is said to be secluded, and cannot be reached by car.
However, Schwarzhans claims to have seen at least 50 dead long-finned pilot whales on the lonely beach, noting how there could well be more bodies hidden beneath the sand.
A pilot for Reykjavik Helicopters, Schwarzhans had reportedly been taking a group of American tourists for a helicopter sightseeing tour when he spotted the carcasses.
Schwarzhans told BBC News:
We were flying northbound over the beach and then we saw them. We were circling over it not sure if it was whales, seals or dolphins. We landed and counted about 60 but there must have been more because there were fins sticking out of the sand.
It was tragic and when we stood downwind it was smelly. It wasn’t something nice to see and quite shocking since there were so many.
It is not currently understood why exactly the whales died, however it is believed they swam ashore at the same time and became dehydrated. Although whale beachings are not an uncommon sight at this time of year, the number of whales in this instance is unusual.
Dozens of dead beached whales have been spotted by sightseers during a helicopter flight over western Iceland. It's unclear how the mammals became beached. 💔 pic.twitter.com/DC0u9w4em4
— China News 中国新闻网 (@Echinanews) July 22, 2019
According to local news source RUV, marine biologist Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir has explained there could be various reasons why the whales were forced to enter a dangerous area.
Magnúsdóttir told RUV how strong tidal currents within the area could have impacted the whales’ efforts to reach deeper waters.
Pilot whales are known to use sonar to make sense of their surroundings, a skill which apparently would have been of limited use within this location. According to Magnúsdóttir, if the tide was on the way out, the whales may have ended up stranded.
As pilot whales are known to swim in close knit groups, this could explain why so many of them died alongside each other.
"Dozens of long-finned pilot whales dead on a remote beach in Iceland, discovered by tourists sightseeing in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland" pic.twitter.com/pPjF7OUSWX
— Tush (@gitweeta) July 21, 2019
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.