SYDNEY, Australia – Nearly 60 whales died in a mass stranding on a remote beach in southern Australia (search), a wildlife official said Tuesday. Rescuers struggled to save about 10 survivors.
Two groups of long-finned pilot whales beached themselves near Marion Bay (search) on the southern island state of Tasmania, according to Liz Wren, a spokeswoman for the state's parks and wildlife service.
A fisherman first reported seeing the whales swimming ashore early Tuesday, but Wren said it took wildlife officials several hours to reach the site, which is accessible only by boat.
When they finally arrived, the majority of the 67 stranded whales were already dead, Wren said.
Around 80 volunteers and wildlife officials were working to herd the 10 surviving whales back into the deep ocean, she said.
Long-finned pilot whales (search) are medium-sized whales, reaching up to about 20 feet in length, with a bulbous forehead rounding to a short beak. Wren said the whales are known to beach themselves in large numbers, though scientists have yet to pinpoint why.
A group of 70 long-finned pilot whales beached themselves in the same location in 1998, Wren said. Only 10 survived.