A pod of 50 sperm whales beached themselves on Australia's southern island state of Tasmania overnight, but only two of the whales survived, wildlife officials said on Friday.
The whales beached at Perkins Island just off Tasmania's northwest tip and wildlife officials said it was difficult for rescuers to reach the pod due to their location, which is only accessible by boat, and the high tide. "It's going to be difficult to get to them because they are big animals, up to 18 metres (54 feet) for males ... and they are actually located on an island off the coast," a Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services spokeswoman told local media. "Six (rescue) staff are maintaining them – keeping them as comfortable as possible and pouring water over them," said Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Liz Wren. "They are looking at whether it will be possible to attempt a rescue, which cannot be until the next high tide tomorrow morning. "They are very heavy creatures, weighing 13 to 20 tons, and this places a lot of pressure on their internal organs." While sperm whales had been successfully rescued in the past, the shallow water at the site and the weight of the animals would make a positive outcome difficult. At least 150 long-finned pilot whales died in a mass stranding off Tasmania's west coast last November. Pilot whales are among the smaller whales, typically up to about 5 metres (16 feet) in length and dark with a grey underbelly. Mass stranding of whales occur periodically in Australia and New Zealand for reasons that are not entirely understood. Theories include disturbance of echo-location, possibly by interference from sound produced by human activities at sea