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Rescuers work frantically to save beached whales

whale February 4, 1998
Web posted at: 4:28 a.m. EST (0928 GMT)

HOBART, Australia (CNN) -- Dozens of sperm whales were rapidly dying on a Tasmanian beach despite the best efforts by animal lovers to save them.

"In the last 15 minutes I've just watched two of the three whales we were hoping to tow die," said Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service director Max Kitchell.

The whales, some up to 50 feet (15 meters) long and weighing up to 40 tons, came ashore late Tuesday and began dying. By midday Wednesday more than half were dead.

Beached whales
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About 30 people -- Parks and Wildlife and State Emergency Services officers, private veterinarians and scientists -- came to Ocean Beach, near Strahan, to try and save the whales. As a last resort a barge was being brought in to tow surviving animals out to sea.

Kitchell said most of the whales were in very shallow water and much too big to manhandle. "The odds are all 65 will die," he said.

digging out whale removing dead

Seven years ago a pod of whales became stranded on the same beach and more than 70 died. "It always happens on shallow, shelving beaches like Ocean Beach," Kitchell said. "It seems their sonar doesn't detect the gradual change in depth."


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