PERTH, Australia — A female false killer whale, harnessed to a motorboat and "squeaking her head off," played Pied Piper to her herd of 84 whales today, leading them into the open waters of the Indian Ocean to try to end a mass beaching.
While most of the herd swam safely out to sea, 25 skittish whales turned back to beach themselves for a second time on a remote shoreline at the southwestern tip of Australia.
Andrew Cribb, spokesman for the Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management, said that of the 25 whales that came back 12 are alive and remain stranded and 13 died.
"Scores of volunteers are working for a second straight night in the rain and wind to keep the remaining whales wet and massaged until another attempt is made to set them free on Friday," he said.
The drama began Wednesday morning when at least 87 false killer whales, measuring up to 16 feet, beached themselves without apparent reason near Flinders Bay at Augusta, 200 miles south of Perth. Two of the whales died on the beach, Cribb said.