Submarines may have caused the deaths of 35 whales off the coast of Co Donegal, a whale expert has claimed.
The dead creatures were found beached on Rutland Island near the fishing village of Burtonport on Saturday morning by ferry operator Seamus Boyle.
Last night Dr.Simon Berrow from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said an investigation into the gruesome discovery will have to examine if there was naval activity in the area.
He said “That is certainly one possibility. Pilot whales are very sociable creatures but they spent most of their time in deeper waters.
“A number of experts suspect one of the reason for beachings like this is that the whales’ sonar is interfered by naval activity such as submarines.
“They could have been driven towards land which resulted in their deaths,” he said.
The Pilot whales had been swimming off Co Donegal for the past week or so before being found dead.
Two veterinary experts from England and Scotland were due to travel to the scene yesterday and begin carrying out post mortems on the whales.
Both Dr.Paul Jetson and Dr Andrew Brownlow had to cancel their trip because of a severe weather warning in the area over the coming days.
However a number of students from Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology along with Dr.Ian O’Connor are also travelling to the scene to record data on the whales including weight and length.
Skin and teeth samples will also be taken for later genetic studies.
The group will also study the animals to see if they could be the same pod which almost beached itself off the Outer Hebrides in Scotland recently.
Dr.Berrow said the mass death is one of the biggest in Irish history.
“This could be the third highest recording. The last highest recording was in 2001 off the coast of Co Kerry when 40 whales died.
“It’s every important now that we try and learn from this and discover why these creatures died,” he said.
Dr.Berrow said because of the size of the operation, the whales may have to be buried by Donegal County Council because of the threat of disease while they decay.
“It will be quite a large operation and Donegal County Council may decide that they need to bury the whales. Otherwise they could be allowed to just decay but because of the number involved there could be an environmental impact,” he said.