HOBART, Australia, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Only two of the 48 sperm whales that stranded off Tasmania survived Saturday, Australian wildlife officials said.
Rescuers hoped the two survivors could be moved out to sea, the Hobart Mercury reported. David Pemberton, a government biologist, said a large group of people were at the site, which is reachable only by boat, to move the dead whales so the live ones could be rescued.
The whales, some of them more than 30 feet long, were spotted Thursday night on Perkins Island, off the northwest coast of Tasmania. By late Friday, only five were still alive and three of those died during the night.
Scientists say a cyclical wind pattern in the area brings nutrients to the surface, luring squid and other whale prey and attracting whales, The Age of Melbourne reported. Two large groups of pilot whales stranded in the area in November, one group only a few miles from Perkins Island.
Karen Evans, a government scientist, said the winds occur in a 10-year cycle.
"I've flown over this area where the sperm whales are, and it's almost like a whale death trap," she said. "There are lots of wide sandbars and beaches, all kinds of traps for animals that go into it."