337 whales wash ashore on Chilean coast in one of the largest mass strandings ever

Scientists counted 305 bodies and 32 skeletons

Serina Sandhu
Wednesday 02 December 2015 09:44
A dead Sei whale lies in Caleta Buena, in the southern Aysen region of Chile
A dead Sei whale lies in Caleta Buena, in the southern Aysen region of Chile

More than 300 dead sei whales have been found washed up on a coast in southern Chile.

Scientists say the discovery of the 337 beached whales is one of the biggest strandings ever recorded.

Using aerial and satellite photography, biologist Vreni Haussermann and other scientists counted 305 bodies and 32 skeletons in the area between the Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales in June.

Ms Haussermann told AFP it was “an apocalyptic sight”, adding that she expected to find more dead whales as the team had not yet reached every area.

Although human intervention has been ruled out, the cause behind the whales’ death still remains unknown. National Geographic reported previously that the Chilean government had launched an investigation because whales are protected species.

Carolina Simon Gutstein, a palaeontologist at the University of Chile, said: “They probably died at sea, we don’t know exactly where, but they didn’t just die by stranding.” She added that sei whales were not usually seen gathering in large groups.

According to the WWF, the sei whale is one of the fastest and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Since the discovery was made, scientists have been collecting samples, with their conclusions due to be published by a scientific journal later this year.

200 stranded whales trigger major rescue effort

It is believed that finding the dead whales could help develop protection policies and even create a sanctuary in the Gulf of Penas.

Additional reporting by AP

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