INTRODUCTION: Naturalists in the United States are studying one of the most puzzling phenomena of the natural world -- apparent mass suicide by large schools of whales.
GV Pilot whale washed up on beach at Nantucket Island off Massachusetts (2 shots)
SVs Whales on beach (2 shots)
SV TRACKING Scientists walking towards stranded whale (3 shots)
SVs Stranded whale being moved by scientists (4 shots)
SV Small whale being held down by two people; CU whale body being smeared with grease (2 shots)
GV Two men in wetsuits putting whale back into sea (4 shots)
GV Small whale in tank (2 shots)
GV Beach ZOOM INTO stranded whale
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Naturalists in the United States are studying one of the most puzzling phenomena of the natural world -- apparent mass suicide by large schools of whales. Their research was given fresh impetus last weekend (5-6 December) when migrating pilot whales beached themselves off the Massachusetts coast. But although it resembled suicide, scientists say there may be other explanations.
SYNOPSIS: The whales came ashore, during a major storm. While apparently swimming alongshore they suddenly changed direction and threw themselves onto the bach at Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast. These were Pilot Whales, measuring up to six-point-seven metres (22 feet) in length.
Scientists still do not know why whales beach themselves. It could be disease. It could be internal parasites. Or it could be a failure in their complex navigational system. There could be reasons scientists just don't recognise. So they came here, seeking vital data that might just produce a few answers.
The scientists, many of them veterinaries, also try to save the live whales before their own weight suffocates them. This young female was rubbed with cooking grease to help maintain body temperature. She was then taken by truck to another shore and released back into the sea. The whale was still alive, but whatever had gone wrong the first time prevented the animal from readjusting to wild life. Clearly she could not make it.
Fortunately the animal was small. It was flown to an aquarium in Connecticut. Veterinarians believed she was still dependent on her mother's milk. They nursed her and in the end she survived.
Regrettably, she was the only one of the 14 whales that came ashore that was likely to live. More research will be needed before whales like these can be saved.