By: Natalie Kinstle, HCHS Tiger Times News, February 17th, 2017
New Zealand beach goers have recently been informed to stay cautious of exploding Pilot whales on a beach in New Zealand’s South Island after a mass stranding. Last weekend, more than six-hundred Pilot whales stranded themselves in Golden Bay, New Zealand. Approximately four-hundred of the whales remained stranded, however about three-hundred of them passed away. The Department of Conservation (DOC) enclosed the area reserved by the Pilot whales due to certain risks.
As bacteria breaks down the flesh of decomposing bodies, gases are released, however, the whales’ thick blubber and skin can cause difficulties for the gases trying to diffuse. This can result in their bodies to explode, states source Popular Science. To prevent the bodies of the deceased whales from exploding, authorities punctured holes into the carcasses’ sides to slowly release the gases. Workers were equipped with protective clothing, two-meter needles, and knives. Sources compared the puncturing to “popping balloons”. Volunteers helped re-float the remaining stranded whales back into the ocean, as reported by source Reuters. “The whales were spotted swimming about four miles offshore on Sunday evening” , reports the DOC.
The cause of the mass stranding is still uncertain, however, stranded whales are common on Golden Bay. Marine Biologist, Dr. Rochelle Constantine, reported to source BBC that the waters around the beach are very shallow and muddy, which could confuse the whales’ echolocation, making it harder for the Pilot whales to navigate.