Rescuers say that they were able to rescue 50 whales from a huge group beached on the West Coast of Tasmania, but 380 animals died and 30 more are still stranded and clinging to life.
Wednesday is the third day of a rescue operation taking place near Macquarie Heads, about 190 kilometres from Hobart, at several locations.
Another group of pilot whales was previously reported to have been observed during an aerial survey, raising the number of animals in distress to over 450.
In Australia’s documented history, the occurrence is now the largest of its kind.
“If they are still alive and in water, there is certainly hope for them, but as time goes on they get more fatigued and their chances of survival reduces,” Parks and Wildlife Tasmania regional manager Nic Deka, said on Wednesday afternoon.
Rescue activities are based on whales that are evaluated as having the greatest chance of survival.
Crews are towing the animals deeper into the sea, where they are released in the hope that they will not turn around in the shallows to rejoin their pod.
Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said it is suspected that in the same case, the whales, which were discovered spread out in many groups, had been stranded.
“Pilot whales can travel in pods of up to 1,000 … so [groups of this size] are not unusual,” he said.