| Updated at: 1149 PST, Monday, November 14, 2011|
SYDNEY: Rescuers were racing against the clock Monday to save two huge sperm whales stranded on a Tasmanian sandbank after 22 others died, the Parks and Wildlife Service said.
Marine mammal specialists were on site in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan on Tasmania's northwest coast, but it was proving to be a slow process.
Twenty-two of the whales weighing two tonnes and up to 12-metres- (40-feet-) long washed ashore on Saturday at Ocean Beach near Strahan and all of them died.
Four others came into the harbour and stranded themselves on a sandbank. Two were successfully refloated and swam back out to sea but two remained stuck.
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife incident controller Chris Arthur said sperm whales were so big they could not simply be pulled into deeper water by volunteers.
"A specially-developed net attached to two boats has been designed to slip under a whale enabling it to be hauled from immediate danger," he said.
"This method can be used for large animals and is very effective."
But conditions were worsening with high winds and seas hampering efforts.
Another problem in Strahan is its treacherous narrow channel, known as Hells Gates, back into deeper water.
"Pushing a large whale against sea surging through the 25 metre passage is like pushing a cork into a bottle," said Arthur, but expressed confidence after seven sperm whales were saved in a similar stranding in the harbour in 2007.
Whale beachings are relatively common in Australia, and they usually occur in the summer months around December around Tasmania. (AFP)