Killer whales making a rare appearance in Cook Inlet near Anchorage became stranded at low tide, but one whale still able to swim used her tail to splash water on another whale stuck high and dry until an incoming tide freed the sea mammals.

Six killer whales - probably smaller white beluga whales - chasing food up Cook Inlet from the North Pacific swam into Turnagain Arm, and the outgoing tide left them stuck on a sandbar, where they spent much of Tuesday thrashing about to get free as hundreds of people watched from the road 40 miles south of Anchorage.Killer whales in the inlet are virtually unheard of though there have been anecdotal reports and unconfirmed sightings in the past, said Ron Morris, a National Marine Fisheries Service marine mammal specialist who went to the scene, helped keep one stranded whale wet and witnessed an extraordinary rescue attempt by another of the whales.

There were two adult males about 30 feet long, two smaller adult females and two young females, about 12 feet long, Morris said.