A unique research opportunity has arisen following the discovery and removal of three rare beaked whales found washed ashore at Rocky Beach on Wednesday (January 5) afternoon.
The whales were discovered at around 1pm and were lifted from the beach via helicopter into the back of a truck before being taken to a research facility where they will be tested to determine their exact species of beaked whale.
Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) vice president Jools Farrell said it's very unusual to see any species of beaked whales beach themselves.
"They are a deep sea whale and don't come close to the coast," she said.
"It's very rare to have three at the same time beach themselves."
Through further testing, it is hoped details will emerge as to what caused the whales to become beached.
"The necropsy will tell us what species of beaked whale they were, their age and will also give an indication as to why they ended up beached," Ms Farrell said.
"We believe it may be because of the weather and the big seas that Ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth is producing, but we won't know for sure until the test results come back.
"From what I understand, all three of the whales were female and the testing will indicate if there is any sickness impacting the species."
Testing is expected to take at least a week before the results are released.
"There isn't too much known about beaked whales because of how rare they are and because they are a deep sea animal. We tend to not see them a lot," Ms Farrell said.
There are around 24 species of beaked whale worldwide.
"We don't actually know how high or low their numbers are because they're so rare."
Authorities also discovered a baby whale carcass washed up on the shore north of Wollongong on January 4.
The neonate sperm whale appeared on a rocky beach at Little Garie in a moderately advanced state of decay, indicating the animal had been deceased for a number of days before being washed ashore.
"Any stranding is not a nice situation to be informed of and we have our fingers crossed that there won't be any more, but with the weather and big seas there is a possibility of more whales becoming beached," Ms Farrell said.
"We are encouraging people too keep their eye out and report any sightings to ORRCA by calling our rescue line on 02 9415 3333 if they spot a beached whale."
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