Marine biologist and science communicator Vanessa Pirotta said pilot whales are social creatures and are commonly found along Tasmania’s West Coast.
She said that, while it is a mystery to scientists why whales beach and become stranded, several factors could have led to the incident. These include an error in whale navigation or something startling them.
Dr Pirotta said those on site had a challenging day ahead of them as they would need to assess how many whales there were, how many could be moved over a short period of time, tide movements and many other aspects to get the whales off the beach.
“It’s a massive effort with any stranding, but [this many] is a big task,” she said.
“Marine animals have never felt their own weight before. They can die from overheating or die from the weight of their body resting on the sand.”
This month, three humpback whales entered crocodile-infested waters at the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
Two whales returned to sea but one remained in the area for several days. It finally swam out to sea on Monday morning.
Staff and Northern Territory government authorities spent days monitoring the situation, establishing an exclusion zone and gathering data on the whales’ appearance. It was the first time in recorded history that whales have entered the area.