At least 90 pilot whales have died in a mass stranding off of Australia, and crews are racing to save another 180 from the same fate. The whales were found Monday at three sites off the west coast of the island state of Tasmania, which also saw the stranding of some 200 whales in 2009. About 30 whales were on a beach, 200 were on a sandbar, and a few dozen more were farther out in the water. Trained rescuers with the Tasmanian Marine Conservation Program managed to escort 25 whales back out to sea on Tuesday but say the rescue will take several more days as many of the whales are in "relatively inaccessible" locations, per the BBC. The outlet describes the site, Macquarie Harbor, as "a remote tip of the island with limited vessel and road access."
"In terms of mass strandings in Tasmania, this is up there among the trickiest we've ever had to deal with," says wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon, per CNN. He adds that some of the whales are "semi-buoyant so it probably won't take too much to re-float them—just involves a bit of grunt," per the BBC. But rescuers then need to get the whales—stretching up to 23 feet long and weighing more than three tons—back into deep water. Carlyon notes a boat might be needed to combat the strong tide. "We will take the animals with the best chance to start with," he adds. Pilot whales are known to survive three or four days while breached and many remain in wet and cool conditions. Carlyon notes they may have followed one or two leaders into danger as they are "such a social species." (Read more mass strandings stories.)