Sydney – At least twenty-five whales have died and scientists are trying to save another 250 that are stranded in a remote bay on the Australian island of Tasmania, officials said Monday. The Tasmanian Department of the Environment said the whales got stuck on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbor on the island’s rugged and sparsely populated west coast.
Nic Deka, who is handling the response to the incident, said two large pods were stuck on sandbars a few hundred meters apart inside the port.
“They are in the water, but it is very difficult to see how many of these whales have died or what condition they are in,” he told reporters in the nearby town of Strahan.
They are believed to be pilot whales, but the environment department has yet to confirm the species.
Police are on site and maritime experts are assessing the situation ahead of the launch of a rescue mission early Tuesday morning.
“Regarding the tides, when we start to put in an effort tomorrow, it will be with an outgoing tide, so it will be in our favor, but obviously the tides go up and down so we will aim to make the most of the windows that we have, ”Deka said.
Massoccur relatively often in Tasmania, but the large numbers involved present a daunting prospect of rescue.
Authorities can call on a network of local volunteers to help but have cordoned off the area to the general public.
The latest stranding comes when a humpback whale stuck in a tropical river in northern Australia finally returned to the ocean after more than two weeks.
Public broadcaster ABC reported that the creature, which spent 17 days in the crocodile infested waters of Kakadu National Park, has been spotted on the high seas off Darwin.
Scientists had weighed the options for guiding the humpback whale to safety after it became the first known whale to sail up the muddy river, but were relieved when it returned to sea on its own.