Death on the Sand

Whales beach on Cape Cod all the time. What made this pod different?

It was a summertime saga that gripped the nation, for its poignancy and the troubling mystery it posed. Just as the sun rose over the languid beaches in the crook of the elbow-shaped playland of Cape Cod, early-morning strollers were astonished by surprise visitors. Lying helplessly in shallows near the town of Dennis, Mass., like so many black boulders, were 55 grounded pilot whales. Although nine of the whales soon died or had to be put down (with lethal injections of sodium pentothal), rescuers managed to push 46 others out to sea.

But this feel-good story quickly turned bad. During the...

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