31 July 2019: Update on the mass stranding of pilot whales in Iceland

On 18th July, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) in Iceland received a report about a mass stranding of long-finned pilot whales at Löngufjörur beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, West Iceland.

On 23rd July, employees from the MFRI and the Environment Agency of Iceland (EAI) went out to take samples from the stranded whales. As the area is very inaccessible, the Icelandic Coast Guard assisted with helicopter transport.

When the team arrived, it was instantly clear that the stranding had occurred some weeks earlier, as the animals were severely decomposed and partially buried in sand. They estimated the time of stranding to be around high tide on 4th July, or even earlier. As the weather in the area has been warm the last few weeks, a more precise estimate was not possible.

The main group consisted of 47 animals, with three additional animals found a bit further north. Altogether, there were 25 females, 25 males, and four calves below 2 m in length. The longest female was 4.58 m, and the longest male 5.52 m.

The team consisted of Sverrir Daníel Halldórsson, Sandra Granquist and Svanhildur Egilsdóttir (MFRI) and Gunnar Alexander Ólafsson (EAI). The helicopter crew consisted of Jens Þór Sigurðssyni (captain), Andra Jóhannessyni (pilot), Elvari Steini Þorvaldssyni (navigator), Daníel Hjaltasyni (engineer) and Steinþóri Runólfssyni (doctor).

Stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019, aerial view. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI
Stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI
Stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019, aerial view. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI
Sampling of stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI
Stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI
Sampling of stranded pilot whales in Iceland, summer 2019. © Svanhildur Egilsdóttir/MFRI

Start typing and press Enter to search