SYDNEY - Rescuers used jet skis, backhoes and human muscle to save dozens of whales and dolphins stranded on a beach in southern Australia on Monday, officials and news reports said.
The 194 pilot whales and half a dozen bottlenose dolphins became stranded on Naracoopa Beach on Tasmania state's King Island on Sunday evening — the fourth beaching incident in recent months in Tasmania.
Strandings happen periodically in Tasmania as whales go by during their migration to and from Antarctic waters, but scientists do not know why it happens. It is unusual, however, for whales and dolphins to get stranded together.
Chris Arthur, of Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service, said 54 whales and seven dolphins were still alive when the rescue effort began. By late Monday, 48 animals had been returned to the sea by officials and more than 100 King Island residents who had volunteered to help.
Backhoes dug trenches in the sand that allowed water to get close to the whales, as volunteers doused them with water and draped wet fabric over them to keep them cool.