Curious locals were drawn to the beach at Greymouth after the 6m carcass of a mature Cuvier's beaked whale washed up on Saturday morning (only eight to 10 Cuvier's beaked whales have washed up on West Coast beaches in the past 25 years).
On Sunday, a 15m sperm whale washed up halfway between Hokitika and Greymouth. Then on Queen's Birthday Monday, a small 2-3m whale or dolphin of unknown species washed up near Westport.
Department of Conservation marine scientist Don Neale says it's unusual for whales of different species to wash up so close to one another: "It's not unusual to have whales washed up on the beaches on the West Coast - we do get up to half a dozen a year of various species. But when they come up one after the other, it's a little bit less usual."
Neale says its unlikely the deaths are directly connected and they could be a coincidence - big storms lashed the West Coast last weekend, and these may have disoriented the whales and led to their deaths.
The whales have been inspected and photographed, but there are no obvious signs of ship strike or other external injuries. They'll either be buried or left to decompose naturally on the beach.
PS: 07 June 2013 - Make that FOUR whales washed up now... scientists are baffled.