Pilot whales beached on Macquarie Harbour, in Tasmania (Photo credit: AFP)
In a strange turn of events, a phalanx of pilot whales were found stranded on the rugged west coast of Tasmania on Wednesday. An estimated 230 whales were stranded, said Australian officials, who added that, of them, only half appeared to be alive. There is no information about what caused the whales to the beach in the shallows of the sand flat.
This comes a day after 14 young sperm whales were discovered beached on King Island. Now, aerial images showed a devastating scene of dozens of black glossy mammals strewn across a long beach, stuck on the waterline where the frigid southern ocean meets the sand.
Locals covered survivors with blankets and doused them with buckets of water to keep them alive, as other whales nearby tried in vain to twitch free and yet more lay dead, reported AFP.
The black glossy mammals were "stranded near Macquarie Harbour" said the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environment. "It appears about half of the animals are alive."
Officials said marine conservation experts and staff with whale rescue gear were en route to the scene.
They will try to refloat animals that are strong enough to survive and likely tow the carcasses out to sea, to avoid attracting sharks to the area.
It is almost two years to the day since Macquarie Harbour was the scene of the country's largest-ever mass stranding, involving almost 500 pilot whales.
More than 300 pilot whales died during that stranding, despite the efforts of dozens of volunteers who toiled for days in Tasmania's freezing waters to free them.
The cause of mass strandings is still not fully understood. Scientists have suggested they could be caused by pods going off track after feeding too close to shore.