“It’s just horrible, and sad, and chaotic, and there’s nothing good comes of it.”
Dianne Coon has lived on Tasmania’s wild west coast for 25 years and has seen more dead whales than most people.
“We’re pretty familiar with whale strandings in Strahan,” she said.
“I’ve been here for 25 years and in 1997 we had a huge one — 63 sperm whales stranded on Ocean Beach and that took a week.
“None of them were rescued but that kind of took a week for all the chaos to go.
“But this one’s just much bigger than that … the whales aren’t bigger, but they’re so spread out and having to be in so many different locations it must be really hard for the managers to work out what’s going on.”
Ms Coon said she could still remember the sounds and smell of those dying and dead sperm whales more than 20 years ago.
“I don’t think pilot whales smell as bad as sperm whales,” she said.
“One reason I avoided coming here … is that I didn’t want to hear the sound of distressed whales.
“I don’t think that does us any good if we’re not able to help them.
“It’s horrible to see these animals dying. It’s hard to know what to do for them. It’s dangerous for people too.”
Tom Mountney works with salmon producer Petuna, which has been involved in rescues previously, although this is his first.
“[It’s a] pretty grim scene, pretty overwhelming seeing so many,” he said.
“They were a bit more lively yesterday so there was a lot more flapping and a lot of noise, but we just did what we could.”
Any whales saved need to pass through Macquarrie Harbour’s Hells Gates to find safety in the Southern Ocean.
“We had our boat here about 7am this morning, and first trip we got one whale out. Second, two decent sized whales and the last trip was two calves and a mother,” he said.
“So, six whales for us and the other two boats have done similar, so it’s been really successful.
“Yeah, it’s a good feeling, doing what we can.”
“It’s hard, but everyone’s got the same mentality of just every [whale] we get out there’s a win.”
Graeme Rollins is an Ulverstone Surf Life Saver, but has switched his wet suit to skipper a jet boat as part of the massive whale-saving effort.
“It’s a three-tonne boat so it’s a bit different to the duckies [small rescue boats],” Mr Rollins said.
Most whales being rescued weigh more than three tonnes.
“We took one out a few hours ago and the boat just wanted to steer the way the head of the whale wanted to go, it was a battle,” he said.
There are around 100 volunteers helping with the rescue.
Mr Rollins said it was a difficult operation, but he to be involved.
“It’s a way of life,” he said about volunteering.
“You’ve only got to look around and see the fins sticking up to realise you’re not going to make a massive difference.
“[But] I could be sitting at home doing nothing, or I could be out doing this.”
Tiarna West, 22, has been involved in Surf Life Saving since she was eight years-old.
This is the first time she’s helped save whales.
“It’s pretty confronting,” she said.
“You see on the media that there’s a lot of whales there, but when you get to it it’s a lot different — it’s not as exciting as it looks.
“It’s hard to see so many whales just trapped here, but it’s good to see there’s so many different volunteers coming and helping to get them back to where they belong.”