Dozens of whales wash up on Icelandic beach

James Rothwell
Pictures of beached whales whales taken by helicopter - David Schwarzhans

Dozens of beached whales have been discovered on a secluded stretch of sand in west Iceland where people rarely tread.

The eerie photographs show what appears to be around 20 pilot whales, partially buried in the sand and rotting on Löngufjörur beach.

A pilot from Reykjavík took the photographs while ferrying American tourists around the island.

The morbid discovery was only made this week by air as the area is inaccessible by car and has few visitors, except the occasional hiker.

Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir, a marine biologist and whale specialist, told local news website Iceland Monitor that it was hard to confirm when the mammals washed up on the beach.

“The most important thing to look at is that these are deep-sea whales, common at the continental margin,” she said.  “They mainly feed on squid, which is why they’re good at diving deep. When they enter shallow waters, most of them have a tendency to become disoriented. They use echolocation for orientation, for finding one another, estimating the depth, and so on.

"But a sloping, sandy bottom appears to increase their disorientation. There are numerous examples of them having beached where there is such a sandy, sloping bottom.”

She added that pilot whales tend to swim in close-knit groups, which increases the risk of a large number being beached at once.

It comes after 145 pilot whales were found stranded on an island in New Zealand, of which half were already dead. The other half had to be put down.