Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Animals

Locals in West Iceland fought to keep a pod of whales from running aground

By Staff

  • Rescue effortThe whales repeatedly tried to reach land near Ólafsvík and Rif but local members of ICE-SAR tried to push them back out to sea. Photo/Tinna Rut Þrastardóttir.

Members of Search and Rescue units in Snæfellsnes peninsula twice fought to keep a pod of at least fifty pilot whales from running aground near the town of Ólafsvík and Rif yesterday.

A local fisherman first spotted the whales east of Ólafsvík on the northern side of Snæfellsnes Sunday morning. According to local news site Mbl.is, the man tried to push the whales away from the shore in a kayak.

"I knew what was about to happen. They were about to run aground. It has happened a few times here since I was a boy," Snorri Rafnsson told a reporter.

In the video below Snorri can be seen pushing a pilot whale in his kayak.

People waded into the sea to push the whales afloat
Around three in the afternoon, local members of ICE-SAR were dispatched to help save the whales from becoming beached. They initially managed to drive the whales around a nautical mile out.

Shortly, however, the pod again approached land near the small town of Rif. Some of them ran aground on the beach.

"A few were beached but fortunately there were people there who waded into the sea up to the waist to get them back afloat. If one runs aground, the others have a tendency to follow," Hafrún Ævarsdóttir, a member of the Search and Rescue unit Lífsbjörg told local newspaper Fréttablaðið.

Pilot Whales, Snæfellsnes, ICE-SAR

Pilot Whale Locals harvested the whales that died on the beach near Rif four years ago. Photo/Þröstur Albertsson.

Ten whales died near Rif in a similar incident in 2013
The rescue effort took a while because the whales kept trying to reach shore. In an effort to prevent the whales from entering the narrow harbour in Rif, a rubber dinghy was placed in the entrance.

Finally, the whales were driven three nautical miles out to sea. However, locals fear that they may return.

Four years ago, ten pilot whales died on the beach by Rif after running aground. Then, as now, locals tried to prevent them from reaching the shore but bad weather conditions made rescue efforts difficult.

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