Over the weekend a hiker was tramping across Stewart Island, a remote locale in New Zealand's far southern regions, when the crest of a hill brought an unsettling vista into view: scores of dead pilot whales washed ashore on the beach.
There is no clear reason why the pilot whales stranded themselves on the Victorian beach, incident controller Michael Turner said, but it is thought the humpback whale may have died in a separate incident and washed up on the same shore by coincidence.
"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining pilot whales was extremely low", explained Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC).
It is not known if the two deaths were related to the 27 pilot whales which mysteriously stranded themselves at Croajingolong National Park in East Gippsland.
A helicopter will also be deployed to the 1.5 km stretch of beach where the whales are located, said Turner. Two of them have died, but authorities have called on volunteers to help them save the rest by re-floating them out to sea Tuesday.
As the beaching was a natural occurrence, the whale carcasses would be left where they are to decompose, the spokeswoman said.
Authorities have made a decision to kill the remaining whales because they are in unreachable areas of the island.
"Desperately we grabbed their tails and pushed and yelled, before we got hammered by them thrashing around", she wrote on Instagram.
"The whales are in a very remote part of the national park that's only really accessible on foot".
Conservationists drove eight of the rare and enigmatic whales across New Zealand to give them a better chance of surviving after they became stranded on the remote, windswept shoreline.
New Zealand witnesses regular whale strandings, with the DoC responding up to 85 incidents a year, mostly involving single animals.