FRANKIE DeGROOT | Local News | Contact

Cetacean experts have called on all migrating whales to download the latest GPS map updates following the recent mass stranding in Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. 

 Late last month almost 400 pilot whales died when they beached themselves at Macquarie Point.

The whales were first noticed on September 21, when a group of 270 males with outdated GPS maps beached themselves after refusing to ask for directions.   

The next day, the rest of the whales also beached themselves, highlighting the additional issue of peer pressure within the whale community.

None of the whales had current GPS data on hand. 

The mass stranding is the worst since 1996, when 320 pilot whales beached themselves in Dunsborough, 250km south of Perth.

 “We are urging whales and all other large sea mammals to regularly update their GPS maps to ensure they have the most up-to-date information at hand” said Tamlyn Scheel, Whale Navigation Researcher for Tasmania’s National Park’s and Wildlife Service.

“Most of these pilot whales were using GPS systems which hadn’t been updated since 2009, and some were still using paper maps, which are very hard to use without opposable thumbs, especially underwater. As you can imagine, it’s a recipe for disaster.” 

Earlier attempts to help the whales by providing free GPS updates on the NPWS website were abandoned after several whales were electrocuted whilst trying to use a PC underwater.  

At this stage it is still unclear what causes mass beaching events, or why the pilot whales were swimming instead of flying their aeroplanes. 


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