Almost a week after the worst mass stranding on record in Australia, rescuers on Tasmania’s rugged west coast have guided another pilot whale to freedom.
The mammal was set free from Macquarie Harbour on Sunday, bringing the total number of those saved to 110.
Crews were swiftly working to dispose of some 360 carcasses at sea after the pod of 470 got into trouble early last week.
They said they would also look for remaining survivors and have not ruled out finding more pilot whales alive.
“We think there may be a few still popping around that we’ve missed that aren’t fully beached but are in distress,” incident controller Robert Buck said.
About 200 carcasses were towed by several boats out of the harbour on Sunday, with authorities hopeful of removing the remainder before Wednesday, when bad weather is due to set in.
“Working on the west coast is extremely weather dependent, we’ve got the wildest ocean in the world at our front door. We’ve got to work within those constraints,” Buck said.
CSIRO modelling has been used to determine the best spot to dump the whales, a stretch of between five and 10 nautical miles, west of Cape Sorell.
Buck warned that some carcasses may drift back to beaches in the area.
He said there had been one shark sighting during the protracted rescue, but no unusual activity.
The stranding surpasses a beaching event in 1996 involving about 320 pilot whales in Western Australia.
Buck praised rescuers for their tireless work in icy waters and rough weather.