Rescuers have returned 44 pilot whales to open water after a mass stranding in an estuary of a sea loch in the Scottish Highlands.
Twenty five whales from the pod died at the Kyle of Durness when they stranded at low tide yesterday.
Attempts to refloat the whales began last night and continued in the early hours of this morning.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) medics, the coastguard and the Navy managed to rotate whales that were upside down to prevent them from drowning when the tide came in.
The BDMLR said many of the whales had stranded on their sides, on top of each other and upside down and were breathing in sand.
Medics from as far as Newcastle responded and nine sets of pontoons were delivered to site overnight, but were not used as the estuary flooded too quickly. They remain on site in case they are needed over the weekend.
The water receded this morning, and several bodies were discovered on shore, thought to be of those that died last night.
Three whales were found still alive, however they have been euthanased by vets as their condition is not suitable for refloating.
Post-mortem examinations to try and determine both the cause of the stranding and the deaths of the whales will now be carried out by pathologists, assisted by BDMLR medics.
Teams from BDMLR continued to search the coast, lochs and headlands today for evidence of the other whales who, it is hoped, have returned to open water.
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