March 23 (UPI) -- More than 150 short-finned pilot whales were found beached on an Australian shore Friday -- only about 15 of which survived, officials said.
Ben Tannock of Australia's Parks and Wildlife Service said trained volunteers and specialists would attempt to herd the surviving whales, who weigh between one and six tons, out to deeper water.
"It's one of the mysteries of nature," Tannock said. "Hopefully we can save as many as we can, but once they come ashore like that they do deteriorate quite quickly."
The whales were stranded on Hamelin Bay beach, near Augusta on Australia's western coast. Swimmers were warned that the whales could attract sharks.
Nine years ago, 55 whales and dolphins died in a similar incident in the same area.
Wildlife authorities took biological samples of the dead whales Friday to more closely examine the nature of their beaching. Nicola Hodgins of the Whales and Dolphins Conservation Society, a global marine mammal conservation group, said such incidents are not uncommon.
"This happens, unfortunately, many, many times," she said.
While acknowledging that tests must be performed to find the reason for the stranding, Hodgins theorized that the closely-knit group of whales may have followed a sick member of the group as it lost energy and was pushed ashore by waves.
"If one is sick, then the other whales don't want to leave their side," Hodgins said. "The other animals end up beaching as well because they don't want to leave them."