About 380 whales were confirmed dead in Australia’s Tasmania as on Wednesday afternoon as rescuers struggled to rescue the remaining 30 that are still alive.
Over 450 long-finned pilot whales were caught on sandbanks and beaches inside Macquarie Harbour, with a rescue effort starting on Tuesday morning.
Some 50 whales have been rescued and coaxed back to the open ocean.
Rescuers were focused on 270 whales stranded near the town of Strahan, but on Wednesday morning a further 200 whales about 10km away in the same harbour were discovered from a helicopter. Officials later confirmed all had died.
The stranding is likely one of the largest on record globally and is the worst in Australia’s history.
The focus for the rescuers now is to save the remaining 30 that are yet alive, and then retrieve and dispose of the dead whales.
It is not fully understood why the whales became stranded. The species is known to be prone to getting beached.
Researchers say it’s possible that one leading individual could have mistakenly led the whole group to shore.
It’s thought that such groups are also susceptible around beaches which gently slope across a wide area – because the whales’ sonar pulses can fail to detect the shoreline in shallow waters.
The stranding, one of the largest ever recorded globally, eclipses a previous national record of 320 set in Western Australia in 1996.