Last Sunday at noon, visitors to the Ushuaia Yacht Club witnessed an unusual event. More than a dozen dolphins approached the shore at full speed and beached themselves next to the pier. The news was spread through a video that began circulating on Twitter. In the sequence, a group of false killer whales, as these animals are also called, can be seen panicking very close to the shore between ships and pleasure boats.
“This does not happen without further explanation. It is the Náutico dock, right in the center of Ushuaia,” wrote Nicolás Feierherd. In the video you can see not only the dolphins, but also how several people running around the port area to see what happened here.
Biologist Dr. Natalia Andrea Dellabianca announced to the local press that the dolphins had already been spotted in the area on Saturday. “Their presence was not sudden: they had been sighted in the area since the day before. Until now, we had no record of them inside the channel, as they normally swim through the Strait of Magellan area. Why they are stranded here now we don’t know yet,” she said.
Some of the dolphins managed to free themselves on their own. Others had to be helped by a group of men and women who jumped into the water without hesitation to try to save them. However, two of the dolphins were trapped under the pier. When the diving team of the Argentine Navy Prefecture learned of the incident, it sent a delegation to help them return to deeper water.
According to Dr Dellabianca, a possible hypothesis of the beaching could be related to foraging and a subsequent disorientation. “The fact is that it is not yet known why they swam into the Beagle Channel. Maybe we can figure it out in a few days.”
The false killer whale is considered the third largest dolphin species and can reach a length of up to six meters. In terms of appearance, the false killer whale has a more agile body than the true killer whale or orca, as well as a solid black or gray body. In the area around the southern tip of South America, the animals are at the outer edge of their home range. Normally, false killer whales prefer the open sea with deep sea areas where they hunt for fish and squid. Beachings are known to occur, though they are rare compared with other species.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal