Scientist and council workers yesterday started to analyse and then remove the carcasses of 17 pilot whales which became stranded on the coast of Fife, Scotland. The mammals were found lying at the foot of cliffs between Anstruther and Pittenweem on the East Scottish coast.
The mammals were part of a group of 26, of which 10 were refloated and returned to sea by vets and more than 50 volunteers from the emergency services and British Divers and Marine Life Rescue. The whales were kept cool and hydrated with wet blankets and sheets on the shore.
Vets hope tests on the whales can tell them why they became stranded on the shore.
A coastguard spokesman said: "Vets from the Scottish Agricultural College were at the beach last night and will come back this morning to carry out post-mortem examinations on the dead whales to try to find out what caused them to come in to shore. They will be looking to see if any of the whales were ill or injured and came to shallow water for a rest.
"Once they have found out what they can it will be up to the council to remove the carcasses from the beach."
Three of the whales that died were calves. The adult mammals are around 20ft long.
The 10 whales that were refloated have not returned to the shore but the coastguard is keeping watch to ensure they do not get into difficulty again.
The spokesman said: "As far as we are aware the 10 that got back into the water made it out to sea, so the best of luck to them. We are keeping a watch in case they return but there is no sign at the moment."
A further 24 pilot whales from the same pod were also spotted in shallow water three miles along the coast at Cellardyke yesterday.
Medics kept an eye on the animals, although high tide prevented them from getting stranded on the beach.