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Iceland Mag


Search and Rescue units stop a pod of pilot whales from swimming into village harbour

By Staff

  • Herding whales ICE-SAR members herd a pod of pilot whales away from the harbour of Rif a small fishing village on Snæfellsnes peninsula. Photo/Tinna Rut Þrastardóttir.

A team of ICE-SAR members were called out at noon on Sunday by the harbour authority in the small fishing village of Ólafsvík on the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. A pod of pilot whales had been seen heading for land and the harbour, and the harbour authority feared the pilot whales would beach themselves in the harbour. Pilot whales are known to beach themselves in large groups.

Beached pilot whales 2013, Rif

From the 2013 beaching Several large scale beachings or near-beachings have occurred at the harbours of the villages on Snæfellsnes peninsula. Photo/Þröstur Albertsson

The local news site Skessuhorn reports that a team from Lífsbjörg, the local chapter of the all-volunteer Iceland Search and Rescue ICE-SAR, showed up on zodiac boats to herd the whales away from the harbour. Despite heavy winds and rain the search and rescue team managed to rescue the whales from the impending trouble.

Several near-beachings of pilot whales in recent years
Pilot whales have been unusually frequent guests in harbours on Snæfellsnes peninsula in the past few years. Earlier this monnth a second, larger pod of pilot whales swam into the harbour of nearby village Rif. The two villages are only 6 km (3.7 mi) apart. In that instance locals, including ICE-SAR units and fishermen, also managed to herd the pilot whales out of the harbour.

Read more:  Video: A large pod of pilot whales visit the residents of Iceland's most remote village

The local news site Vísir reported at the time that the whales had seemed extremely determined to swim onto land. After search and rescue units had herded the whales away from the coast the first time the pod made headed back to shore, swimming toward the harbour. Some of the whales were already up in the beach when the teams managed to turn the pod around and chase it back out to sea.

Four years ago a large pod of pilot whales, counting 50-70 animals, beached itself in the harbour at Rif. Ten whales died during the beaching. The largest beaching of pilot whales in recent years on Snæfellsnes peninsula took place at Rif in 1982 when 300 pilot whales swam up onto the beach.

Scientists do not know what causes whales to beach themselves.

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