Twenty-five die despite efforts to save them

HIGHLAND COUNCIL is liaising with SEPA and the local landowner to dispose of the pilot whales that died after they were stranded in the Kyle of Durness over the weekend.
In its role as environmental health authority, the council is taking the lead role in ensuring disposal of the carcasses.
More than 60 whales got into difficulties on Friday after swimming into the Kyle and getting caught in the low tide.
About 40 were able to be guided out into the sea but an estimated 25 were stranded on sandbanks and perished.
Donald Mitchell, The Highland Council’s Countryside Ranger for North West Sutherland, was one of those on hand on Friday to help out and monitor the progress of the whales.
He recalls that at around 10am on Friday 22 July, the boat man on the Cape Wrath ferry, John Morrison, noticed a pod of long-finned pilot whales swimming into the Kyle of Durness.
Mr Mitchell said: “The boatman quickly realised by noon when the tide started to turn that they would be in trouble. The Kyle is very shallow at low tide with many sand bars. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency were called and divers from the Ministry of Defence bomb disposal team were also on hand to help. By this time there were estimated to be about 60-70 pilot whales involved. Huge efforts were made to shepherd these pilot whales back through the narrows and out to sea.”
He continued:“However it was to be a desperate race against time as the tide started to drop very quickly. Huge numbers of locals and visitors came to watch and urge the animals onwards. But very soon the whales started to flounder on the sand. Volunteers stayed with them keeping them wet and cool. The efforts made by all those involved were heroic. Four or five small boats and many volunteers up to their chest in water herded the whales past the sand bars towards the sea. It seemed to be working but by 5pm another 20 had got stuck near the pier Cape side. By 7pm ten had made it out into the open sea but the rest were stuck.”