Hundreds of Whales Beached on Same Date as Record Stranding Two Years Ago

Around 230 whales have become stranded on a beach in Tasmania exactly two years since a similar event happened in 2020.

On Wednesday, the Tasmanian government's Department of Natural Resrouces and Environment announced that marine conservation experts were en route to the island's West Coast region where the whales had become stranded on a sand flat in Macquarie Harbour.

At that time, it appeared that half of the animals—thought to be pilot whales—were still alive.

Whale stranding in Tasmania, 2022
Two photos of the whale-stranding event in Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour on September 21, 2022. Officials were sent to help the animals back into the sea, though around half of the whales are thought to have died according to early reports. Huon Aquaculture/NRE Tas/Getty

Experts are planning to use rescue gear to save as many of the whales, which are protected animals, as they can.

"Please be advised that volunteers are not needed at this time," the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service said via Facebook Wednesday morning. "If it is determined there is a need for help from the general public, a request will be made through various avenues."

Marine conservation experts from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment are responding to reports of a mass whale stranding on Tasmania’s West Coast.A pod of about 230 whales, which...

The officials will be guided by a whale-stranding incident response manual that has undergone extensive review since 2020, when a similar—and even more severe—event occurred in the same place.

On September 21 and 22, 2020, about 470 pilot whales became stranded in the harbor, with around 380 of them dying as a result.

The event still stands as the worst mass whale-stranding on record in Australian territory. On that occasion, government staff as well as volunteers worked to help shift the animals back into the water, maneuvering large webbing underneath the whales.

Dr. Kris Carlyon, a marine conservation program wildlife biologist with the Tasmanian government, told The Guardian at the time: "There's nothing to indicate that this [stranding] is human caused. This is a natural event and we know strandings have occurred before and we know that from the fossil record.

"As far as being able to prevent this occurring, there's little we can do."

In marine biology, stranding refers to when a living or dead marine mammal ends up on land and cannot return to the water without assistance.

If a marine mammal finds itself out of the water, it loses the ability to regulate its body temperature and also experiences unnatural weight and pressure on its internal organs, leading to injury or death.

Scientists are still not entirely sure why whale-stranding events occur, but such incidents have happened for thousands of years at least.

Natural factors are known to play a part, including age, disease, bad weather and navigation errors. If a single whale gets into trouble, its distress calls may lead others to beach themselves as well, according to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

However, human behavior is also a factor. Some scientists believe that man-made underwater noises, like loud sonar signals used by the military, may cause whales to flee toward beaches to escape the sound or even injure them internally.