How wetsuit warriors saved giants of the sea

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THE 100 whales beached at Busselton this week probably owe their lives to 20 mammals that were stranded a few kilometres away just six weeks ago.

That beaching re-ignited interest in the community-based rescue group WestWhales, formed 19 years ago when 114 whales beached at Augusta.

Interest in the group had declined, but after the rescue of 13 of 19 long-finned pilot whales at east Busselton in April, hundreds of people signed up.

Just 24 hours before Thursday’s dramatic stranding of false killer whales, the department of Conservation and Land Management and WestWhales were getting ready to put those volunteers through their paces in an exercise.

As news spread of the potential disaster, the exercise became a reality. What unfolded was a remarkable rescue mission that saved all but one of the stricken mammals