Rescuers struggled to save a pod of 26 pilot whales who beached themselves off the east coast of Scotland, reports NBC News.
Ten of the 20-foot whales were kept alive by vets and refloated out to deeper water Monday but sixteen others, including four calves, died before vets were able to lead them out into the water, reports the UK's Telegraph newspaper.
Cameron Rae, of the St Andrews Coastguard Rescue Team, told the Telegraph that no one in the area had ever seen anything like it.
"This is very unusual. We have members of our rescue team who have been around these coasts all their lives and haven't known this type of thing to happen before. We've had occasional single animals beaching, but not a whole pod like this," he said.
Rae also told the newspaper that the rescue teams were waiting for a higher tide to release the whales back out into the open water.
Another rescuer, Ali Jack, the Scottish coordinator of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, told Sky News that the surviving whales may die from stress or become stranded again.
"We are hopeful all the ten will survive - but I would say the chances are 50-50. It is up to the animals now. People here certainly couldn't have done more - they were magnificent."
A local fish filleter, David Galloway, told The Scotsman newspaper that witnessed the whales stranded on the beach.
“I went down to the beach at about 12 p.m. and I could see all the whales," he said. "It was horrible. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
“We were told we couldn’t go down on to the beach, but we could see rescuers beside the whales, they were trying to take care of them, trying to keep them moist. They were waiting for the tide to come in," said Galloway.
The Scotsman reports that veterinarians are also concerned about another pod of 24 pilot whales that are in shallow water nearby. A spokeswoman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said none had beached.