Helicopter pilot David Schwarzhans with Reykjavik Helicopters told The Associated Press that he, along with several passengers, counted at least 50 long-finned pilot whales that washed up on the Löngufjörur beach on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland.
He said there could have been more as some of the beached whales were partly buried by the sand.
Schwarzhans called it “a very sad scene.”
It's not clear what caused the mass stranding but pilot whales are known to travel in large numbers which could explain the number of carcasses seen.
It is believed that the whales likely died of dehydration. The beach where the mammals were found is extremely isolated as it is inaccessible by car.
Marine biologist Edda Elisabet Magnusdottir told the Iceland Monitor that while it's hard to explain why the whales approached the beach, they likely got disoriented in the shallow waters. They use echolocation to locate one another and the sandy floor could’ve confused the pod.
An autopsy report will be done to see how long the whales have been there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.