pilot whales

380 pilot whales dead in one of the worst mass strandings in Australia’s history – The Washington Post

Nearly 500 pilot whales became stranded, and some 380 died, in Australia during the past week, in what is suspected to be one of the largest mass beachings in recorded history.

So far, rescuers have been able to free around 50 pilot whales from beaches and sandbars in the west of Tasmania, an island state in Australia’s south.

Hundreds of the animals, some distressed and other dead, were discovered Monday, and more were found around six miles away Tuesday.

For the 30 pilot whales still alive but trapped, survival chances diminished rapidly Wednesday.

Rescuers and experts also warned some of the freed pilot whales may return to the shallow waters overnight and once again become stuck. Officials cited strong tides.

Pilot whales’ social bonds tend to pose a challenge for rescue operations, said Karen Stockin, a marine biology researcher at Massey University in nearby New Zealand, who has done extensive work on strandings.

“These animals are constantly communicating,” she said. “It’s like a distress call. So even when you got some animals successfully into deeper waters, it’s not uncommon for them to turn tail and come straight back in.”

It is difficult to “undertake any meaningful re-floatation when you’ve got so many animals that are literally coming in faster than you can get them out,” she said.

As a result, rescuers may have to prioritize animals with the best chances to survive the ordeal — but making that determination can be difficult because of potential internal injuries.

Australian officials said rescue operations would continue “as long as there are live animals,” according to the BBC.

Cold temperatures in the waters off Tasmania this week meant the stranded pilot whales may have survived longer than they would have during the southern hemisphere’s summer, as they were not at an immediate risk of overheating. But the cold conditions also hampered rescue operations, officials said. Each rescue attempt requires around five people, who have to pull the animals out of sandbanks with slings and guide them to deeper water, Reuters reported.

Pilot whales, which are in fact large oceanic dolphins, can grow to around 20 feet. Adults can weigh several tons, making it difficult to free them once they become stranded — and to move the bodies once they are dead.

Due to their weight, some stranded animals “are under compression to the point where you’ve got organ failure,” or they are suffering a stress response, Stockin said.

In other cases, the animals overheat as their insulated skin is exposed to the sun and cannot be cooled by water, she said.

In 2017, New Zealand saw one of its worst mass strandings in history in which 600 pilot whales were beached. Around 400 of them died. Many of the carcasses were buried in remote sand dunes — which Australian officials may now consider, as the carcasses can explode as they decompose, posing a threat to bystanders.

Pilot whales travel in large pods, which makes the species vulnerable to mass strandings. Some regions, including Tasmania, have a long history of such incidents.

The reasons whales and dolphins strand remain unknown.

Researchers said a number of behavioral factors, such as the pursuit of prey into shallow coastal waters, might play a role.

Stockin said it is unlikely researchers would be able to determine exactly why the pod stranded off Tasmania.

“You might have one or two compromised individuals in that whole group that do have an injury, or a debilitation, or a disease that’s caused some kind of navigational failure,” she said. But “it’s a little bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

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Helicopter pilot

Helicopter pilot dies in crash while fighting California wildfires – New York Post

August 19, 2020 | 10:50pm

A helicopter pilot fighting the California wildfires died Wednesday morning when his aircraft went down in Fresno County, officials said.

The pilot was on a water dropping mission when the chopper crashed about 160 miles south of San Francisco, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

The pilot was the only person aboard the helicopter.

Hundreds of wildfires are roaring across the state, sparked by thousands of lightning strikes associated with recent storms that lacked any rain.

“We are experiencing fires the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said at a Wednesday press conference.

The governor said he has requested out-of-state help to fight the fires.

Northern California’s wine country has been especially hard hit, with 50 structures in the region destroyed from the flames.

The group of fires, burning in between San Francisco and Sacramento, covers more than 46,000 acres and has forced the partial evacuation of the city of Vacaville.

High winds and the state’s record-breaking heat wave, combined with low humidity, has contributed to the fire’s quick spread.

With Post wires

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Michigan pilot

Michigan pilot gives a literal ‘F U’ to governor over coronavirus lockdown – New York Post

May 1, 2020 | 10:40pm | Updated May 1, 2020 | 10:44pm

This frustrated Michigan pilot gives a literal flying you-know-what about his governor’s lock-down order.

Ed Frederick, 45, spent about an hour charting a path over Grand Rapids that spelled out this message for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: “F U,” with an arrow pointing directly over the governor’s mansion.

Frederick said he was inspired to hop in a propeller plane Friday morning after Whitmer announced an extension of the state’s emergency lockdown order through May 28.

“It’s a power trip,” Frederick told The Post.

“The government, no matter Democrats or Republicans, always seem like they’re trying to do something just to prove they’re doing something, without weighing the ramifications.”

Frederick, who lives just outside Grand Rapids, said he owns a small business with his sister, and explained that he believed a lockdown was unnecessary for the entire state, considering the largest concentration of cases were in the southeast region around Detroit.

“That’s been an issue for a lot of people in the rural counties,” he added. “There are 82 counties, but really only four need to be locked down.”

Frederick believes Whitmer, a Democrat, has settled with a “draconian” statewide lockdown because a limited lockdown around the major city wouldn’t sit well with her base.

“[Whitmer] says this is for the safety of Michigan, but I think it’s for the safety of her keeping her votes, because the southeast is highly democratic,” he said.

Frederick said he was still getting by, yet sympathized with “the people walking that precipice, living paycheck-to-paycheck.”

But Whitmer and health experts have argued that state lockdowns help contain the spread of the coronavirus. She noted Thursday that counties of northern and western Michigan have begun seeing cases double within a week’s time.

“We must all continue to be diligent, observe social distancing and limit in-person interactions and services to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Whitmer said in a statement urging residents to “work together.”

“Michigan now has more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19. The virus has killed more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam war. Extending this order is vital to the health and safety of every Michigander.”

Frederick’s flight came a day after armed protestors stormed the Michigan statehouse. A licensed gun owner himself, Fredrick said he supported the message but felt protestors should have left their weapons at home because it’s “not painting them in a good light.”

“We have an open carry, but just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean you should do it — it’s sort of like [the virus],” he added.

“I don’t need the government to wipe my tushie every two minutes,” he said. “Let me know what the problems are going to be and let me know what the ramifications are; I’m responsible for myself.”

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