Sixteen whales were killed and ten others saved in a mass beaching on Scotland’s east coast on Sunday, authorities said.
The 20-foot pilot whales became stranded in a small cove in the county of Fife – home to the famed Old Course at St. Andrew’s golf course — at around 7 a.m. local time, The Scotsman newspaper reported.
Volunteers, coast guardsmen, firefighters and local vets scrambled to rescue the poor beasts from the shallow North Sea waters.
“I went down to the beach at about 12 p.m. and I could see all the whales. It was horrible. I have never seen anything like it in my life,” David Galloway, a local fish cutter, told The Scotsman.
“We were told we couldn’t go down on to the beach, but we could see rescuers beside the whales, they were trying to take care of them, trying to keep them moist, he said.
“They were waiting for the tide to come in. It was just horrible.”
The rescue operation drew a large crowd to the windswept beach, prompting the coast guard to urge would-be volunteers to stay away.
The whales may have become stranded after the lead whale got sick or lost its way, officials told the newspaper.
Three of the whales that died were calves.
The ones that were saved were being monitored for 24 hours to make sure they didn’t wash ashore again, BBC reported.
“It is a very rare occurrence in Scotland and very sad,” a coast guard spokeswoman told The Scotsman.