More than 200 whales were discovered stranded on a remote sandflat in Tasmania, Australia, on Wednesday.
About half of the 230-whale pod had reportedly already died as of Tuesday nights, while rescuers rushed to Macquarie Harbor in an attempt to save as many as possible, BBC reported. The whales are believed to be pilot whales, and it remains unclear what caused so many to wash up on the shore, where a similar mass stranding of 470 long-finned pilot whales occurred almost exactly two years ago, according to NPR.
The rescue operation could be “complex,” Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said in a statement, BBC continued. The inlet where the whales are located is shallow, so marine conservation experts are hoping to refloat those that remain alive and appear healthy enough to survive, the outlet noted.
Warning: distressing footage. Hundreds of pilot whales have stranded on Ocean Beach near Strahan, on Tasmania’s west coast. Video credit: Sam Gerrity. Story from @readfearn and me here: https://t.co/Pe5SLC9bnG pic.twitter.com/hbweimwx0m
— Donna Lu (@donnadlu) September 21, 2022
During the previous stranding, roughly 100 whales survived thanks to rescue efforts, BBC noted. Wildlife scientists are concerned about similarities between the two incidents, with the same species of whale stranding themselves in the same location at the same time of year, the outlet continued.
Though the cause of the stranding remains a mystery, it is thought that the whales may have “misnavigated” by following a disorientated or sick leader, or may have been surprised by the shallow topography of the inlet, wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta told BBC. (RELATED: Pet Kangaroo Kills Owner, Tries To Stop Paramedics From Saving Him, Police Say)
A similar, smaller stranding of 14 sperm whales took place on King Island in northern Tasmania on Monday, the Guardian reported. All of those whales appeared to be male, and were dead upon discovery, the outlet noted.