Photos: Nearly 500 whales beached in Australia’s largest mass stranding

The majority of a nearly 500 member strong pod of pilot whales found stranded off Australia's remote southern coast has died, officials said on September 23, as rescuers struggled in freezing waters to free those still alive. The group, which is the biggest beaching in the country's modern history, were first spotted a wide sandbank during an aerial reconnaissance of rugged Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania state on September 21. After two days of a difficult rescue attempts, state marine scientists say at least 380 of the long-finned pilot whales have died.

Updated On Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST 8 Photos
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A pod of whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Rescuers already racing against time to save nearly 200 whales stuck in the remote Australian harbor found more pilot whales stranded on an Australian coast on September 23, raising the estimated total to almost 500 in the largest mass stranding ever recorded in the country, the AP reported. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

A pod of whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Rescuers already racing against time to save nearly 200 whales stuck in the remote Australian harbor found more pilot whales stranded on an Australian coast on September 23, raising the estimated total to almost 500 in the largest mass stranding ever recorded in the country, the AP reported. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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A member of a rescue crew stands with a whale on a sand bar near Strahan, Australia on September 22. Authorities had already been working to rescue survivors among an estimated 270 whales found on September 21 on a beach and two sandbars near the remote west coast town of Strahan on the island state of Tasmania. A new group was spotted from the air less than 10 kilometers from this location. (Brodie Weeding / Pool Photo via AP)

A member of a rescue crew stands with a whale on a sand bar near Strahan, Australia on September 22. Authorities had already been working to rescue survivors among an estimated 270 whales found on September 21 on a beach and two sandbars near the remote west coast town of Strahan on the island state of Tasmania. A new group was spotted from the air less than 10 kilometers from this location. (Brodie Weeding / Pool Photo via AP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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Rescue crew members and boats work to help a whale stranded on a sand bar near Strahan on September 22. “From the air, they didn’t look to be in a condition that would warrant rescue,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka said told AP. “Most of them appeared to be dead.” Further assessment of their condition would be made by boat and crews would be sent if the whales could be saved, he said. (Brodie Weeding / Pool Photo via AP)

Rescue crew members and boats work to help a whale stranded on a sand bar near Strahan on September 22. “From the air, they didn’t look to be in a condition that would warrant rescue,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka said told AP. “Most of them appeared to be dead.” Further assessment of their condition would be made by boat and crews would be sent if the whales could be saved, he said. (Brodie Weeding / Pool Photo via AP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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A pod of whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania on September 22. About a third of the first group had died by the evening on September 21, and an update on the death toll and condition of survivors is expected later on September 23. Tasmania is the only part of Australia prone to mass strandings, although they occasionally occur on the Australian mainland. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

A pod of whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania on September 22. About a third of the first group had died by the evening on September 21, and an update on the death toll and condition of survivors is expected later on September 23. Tasmania is the only part of Australia prone to mass strandings, although they occasionally occur on the Australian mainland. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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Whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on September 22. Australia’s largest mass stranding had been 320 pilot whales near the Western Australia state town of Dunsborough in 1996. The latest stranding is the first involving more than 50 whales in Tasmania since 2009. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

Whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on September 22. Australia’s largest mass stranding had been 320 pilot whales near the Western Australia state town of Dunsborough in 1996. The latest stranding is the first involving more than 50 whales in Tasmania since 2009. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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Whale rescue efforts take place at Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania on September 22. “In Tasmania, this is the biggest (mass stranding) we’ve recorded,” Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon told AP. Rescue crews remained optimistic about freeing more whales, Carlyon said. With cool weather helping, “we’ve got a very good chance of getting more off that sandbar,” he added. (Bilal Rashid via REUTERS)

Whale rescue efforts take place at Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania on September 22. “In Tasmania, this is the biggest (mass stranding) we’ve recorded,” Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon told AP. Rescue crews remained optimistic about freeing more whales, Carlyon said. With cool weather helping, “we’ve got a very good chance of getting more off that sandbar,” he added. (Bilal Rashid via REUTERS)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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Stranded whales are seen on a sandbar in Macquarie Heads on September 21. Why the whales ran aground is a mystery. The pod may have been drawn into the coast to feed or by the misadventure of one or two whales, which had led to the rest of the pod following, Carlyon said. (Tasmania Police via REUTERS)

Stranded whales are seen on a sandbar in Macquarie Heads on September 21. Why the whales ran aground is a mystery. The pod may have been drawn into the coast to feed or by the misadventure of one or two whales, which had led to the rest of the pod following, Carlyon said. (Tasmania Police via REUTERS)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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A rescuer inspects a beached whale on a beach in Macquarie Harbour on September 22. Marine scientist Vanessa Pirotta said there were a number of potential reasons that whales might become beached, including navigational errors. “They do have a very strong social system, these animals are closely bonded and that’s why we have seen so many in this case unfortunately in this situation,” Pirotta told Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

A rescuer inspects a beached whale on a beach in Macquarie Harbour on September 22. Marine scientist Vanessa Pirotta said there were a number of potential reasons that whales might become beached, including navigational errors. “They do have a very strong social system, these animals are closely bonded and that’s why we have seen so many in this case unfortunately in this situation,” Pirotta told Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Brodie Weeding / The Advocate / AFP)

Updated on Sep 23, 2020 06:41 PM IST
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