The tourists, travelling with Reykjavík Helicopters, said the whales were all dead when they arrived and that it was a distressing sight.
The police in Stykkishólmur have been notified.
Greta Carlson said she had never seen anything like it before and that some of the carcasses were injured. She said she chose to photograph and film the whales in case it could be used to help prevent future whale deaths in some way.
Marine biologist Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir told RÚV that there could be a number of reasons the whales entered a dangerous area. Pilot whales are pack animals with strong social bonds and they avoid being separated from their friends and family.
She says there are strong tidal currents in that area and the seabed there could have impeded the whales’ efforts to reach deeper water. Their sonar would have been of limited use in the area, and pilot whales use sonar extensively to interpret their surroundings. Then, if the tide was on its way out, they could have ended up stranded.
Róbert Arnar Stefánsson, director of the West Iceland natural history institute, says it has become more common for whales to beach in that area of southern Snæfellsnes and that it is not known why it has become an almost-annual event.
“We really don’t know whether it has become more common here because there is something especially wrong, or because there are more pilot whales around,” he said.
Róbert says that sometimes the public and search & rescue volunteers have managed to save whales by pushing them back out to sea.
Southern Snæfellsnes is sparsely populated. The manager of Hótel Búðir, one of the only inhabited places in the area, Berglind Arnardóttir, said she had seen and photographed a lone whale there last night, swimming close to the quayside. It is possible that whale was a survivor from the beached pod.
While whale beachings have become a regular event at this time of year, it is unusual for so many to beach and die together.