Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

i

Photo: Catch News

Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

i

Photo: Catch News

Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

i

Photo: Catch News

Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

i

Photo: Catch News

Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

i

Photo: STR/AFP

BEACHED WHALES

Heartbreak Shore: still no clarity why over 100 whales washed up on the TN coast

Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Three days after over 100 short-finned pilot whales washed ashore overnight on a beach in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district, we're no closer to understanding why.

Over 50 whales died, while workers of the Tamil Nadu fisheries department, local fishermen, police and the administration managed to save the rest by towing them back to sea on Tuesday, officials said.

Unfortunately, conclusive reasons for beaching continue to be unclear globally - though it usually points to a combination of factors.

In some cases, experts say it can be because of a possible underwater disturbance like an earthquake or volcano. Marine pollution and environmental change could also trigger changes to their habitat that trigger a crisis.

Marine scientists working in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve say the group most probably followed an isolated whale and could have been stranded. Whales are among the most emotionally-connected species on earth, say experts, and entire pods will often follow a single ill or disturbed whale to shore even if they're healthy and know they may not survive.

Pilot whales are so named because they are led or 'piloted' by a leader in their search for food or breeding grounds.

Rescue workers and fishermen worked through the day to pull the whales - each weighing between 1-1.5 tonnes and measuring between 8 feet and 10 feet - back into the sea.

"The stranding of these whales is rare. They don't swim close to the coast," says J.K. Patterson Edward, Director, Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute, Thoothukudi.

The last time this coast saw a similar incident was on January 14, 1973 when 147 whales were stranded on the beach between Kulasekarapattinam and Manapad, almost the same location and same time of year.

In that case, while the whales managed to drag out survival by a few days, they all eventually died.

It is a tragic reality that for all the progress we've made as a species, we're unable to save another species in distress even when they wash up on our doorstep.

Priyata Brajabasi

Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB