These beachings are the "worst sperm whale stranding off the English coast since records began in 1913," according to the Guardian. The first whale appeared on a beach in Hunstanton on Friday. Three other whales followed shortly after on Sunday, appearing on a beach in Skegness. The fifth whale beached himself in Wainfleet on Monday, Sky News reported. They're all believed to be members of the same pod.
Some scientists believe the whales may have became disoriented when they approached shallow waters in their hunt for food, the Guardian reported. Sperm whales are typically deep sea creatures and are listed as vulnerable by International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
This isn't the first time whales have beached themselves, and it probably won't be the last.
It's a global phenomenon that keeps on happening - whales have also recently washed ashore on beaches in Germany and the Netherlands. "The cause of mass strandings in pilot whales remains one of the great mysteries in the social behavior of whales and dolphins," C. Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, told The Dodo in a previous story about a recent, massive beaching of whales in India.
"Although strandings of some species, such as beaked whales, are now known to be the result of human disturbance, such as navy sonar or seismic surveys, the mass strandings of pilot whales seems to be a natural phenomenon that results from their strong social bonds," he added.
That means, he said, that the whales may be intentionally beaching themselves: "The close social bonds presumably result in a kind of 'herd panic' or 'herd cohesion,' bringing the entire social group (the pod) into the shallow waters and at risk of stranding." Climate change, which can affect the locations of whale food sources, may also cause whales to travel farther than is typical and, therefore, into more shallow waters.
Graffiti on the whales, however, seems to blame humans for the beachings.