Authorities were working Tuesday to clear a beach in New Zealand of hundreds of pilot whale carcasses after massive strandings, while the site was closed to the public due to the risk of the dead bodies exploding.
Nearly 700 whales perished on Farewell Spit, a coastline of more than 26 km in the extreme north of the South Island – a region that periodically traps whales for unknown reasons suspected to be related to disrupting their navigation capabilities.
The carcasses of more than 300 whales had to be transported by truck to a publicly inaccessible part of a national park, where nature will take its course, according to the New Zealand Environmental Protection Service.
Pilot whales can weigh up to two tons and measure up to six meters long, so the operation represents a significant logistical challenge. Simply removing them from the beach will take several days.
Employees in protective suits pierced the corpses before removal to prevent explosive hazards due to decomposition gases.
Approximately 75% of one group of 415 whales died, while rescuers were able to return about 250 from another herd back to the water.