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TOURISTS, locals and environmental officers are trying to save up to 25 false killer whales stranded in a group of 80 dolphins and and whales at Hamelin Bay, on Western Australia's south coast.
“I've never seen this sort of thing happen in real life. I've only seen it with photos, but I went down on the beach and had a look myself and ... just held back the tears,” Ms Carlon told AAP.
“Everyone's down there, they've got the police ... (the Department of Environment and Conservation's) down there ... they've cut off the road from letting people drive in.”
In 2005 more than 1000 volunteers rescued 100 false killer whales in nearby Geographe Bay, Busselton.
In 1986, 57 false killer whales beached themselves near the mouth of the Blackwood River at Augusta. Only 30 survived.
Wildlife experts have said previously that false killer whales were notorious for their suicidal behaviour. The species is described as fast, acrobatic swimmers. They are members of the toothed whale family Delphinidae, the dolphin family, and grow up to 3.8m in length.
Since 1984 there have been 21 mass strandings of whales and dolphins along the WA coast.
Another theory that has gained credence is disturbance of echo-location, possibly by naval sonar. In 2005, after a report by the Department of Environment showed a possibility of stressed whales being further upset by noise, the Royal Australian Navy said that it would avoid operations in areas where whales were beaching.
A naval ship had been using sonar near where 145 whales and dolphins died at Mation Bay on Tasmania's east coast in October of that year.
In 2006, after the death of a bottlenose whale stranded for two days in the Thames, marine scientists blamed navy sonar and military explosions for disorienting the mammal.
Current research is aiming to verify a process known as sonar termination. It may be that sonar termination is the main cause of dysfunction of cetacean echolocation during a mass stranding of apparently healthy toothed cetaceans (odontoceti). Sonar termination occurs when a pod of cetaceans emits an echolocation signal toward a coast with a gently sloping shoreline and under certain meteorological conditions a reflection will not be detected. The reflection contains important information about the location and features of the shoreline. The lack of reflections received from the coast would appear to be a ‘deaf spot’ to the cetaceans, analogous to the human ‘blind spot’. The coast may appear as thick 'fog' to the pod of cetaceans and may induce a navigational error.
Whales rescued from yesterday’s mass stranding at Hamelin Bay are heading out to sea, raising hopes of hundreds of volunteers in the South-West who have been working against the clock to save the mammals. Six of the 11 surviving pilot whales has formed a pod and is heading into deeper water. Two others are in open waters, but there are still fears for three pilot whales, including a calf nicknamed Buddy, which haven’t joined the main pod and are still struggling.