MORE than 500 whales have become stranded off the coast of Tasmania – as officials fear 380 of them are dead or dying.
Rescuers in the remote town of Strahan had been scrambling to save hundreds of the creatures before a further 200 were spotted less than six miles from the tragic scene.
Crews will be dispatched shortly to see if any of the animals can be saved, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka said.
Mr Deka added: "From the air, they didn't look to be in a condition that would warrant rescue. Most of them appear to be dead."
The marine giants are a species of oceanic dolphin which can grow up to 23ft in length and weigh in at three tonnes.
"While strandings of this scale aren't (unprecedented), we certainly haven't had one for at least 10 years," said Nic Deka after the first 270 whales were discovered.
Hero rescuers have managed to shift around 30 of the stranded whales from their original position to the open seas – but sadly they became stranded again.
Despite the phenomena becoming a fairly common occurrence no one really knows why it happens.
One theory is that sloping beaches may not reflect the whales’ sonar back to them – making them think they are in deep water.
Others believe panicking pods might be fleeing from predators like packs of killer whales.
Marine biologist Dr Olaf Meynecke told Sky News that tragically because whales are loyal to eachother, the pods could be following eachother into danger.
He said: "These animals use sonar and are going into shallow bays and completely lose orientation."
And Olaf Meynecke, a whale researcher and Project Manager of whales and climate at Griffith University, told Reuters: "Their social groups and strong bonding between the groups causes often all of them to strand."
Government scientists had first thought the mass stranding involved about 70 whales but a closer inspection revealed the number was much larger.
Officials usually respond to reports of strandings of dolphins and whales in Tasmania once every two or three weeks.
The last mass stranding off the coast of the island was in 2009, when around 200 whales beached themselves.
The largest mass stranding in history happened a century ago when 1,000 whales came ashore at the Chatham Islands, New Zealand.
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