Pilot whales stranded again

07:06, Jan 24 2012
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Volunteers attempt to keep the stranded whales alive at Farewell Spit.
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The recovery effort winds down for the day on Monday evening, and a notice advises volunteers to resume the operation the following morning.
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The beach at Farewell Spit is littered with beached pilot whales; some showing faint signs of life among several dead whales.
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A volunteer douses a beached whale with buckets of water.
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Volunteers attempt to keep the stranded whales alive at Farewell Spit.
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Project Jonah volunteers concentrate their efforts on keeping the stranded pilot whales hydrated.
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Dead whales lie on Farewell Spit while the recovery effort continues.
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The tide comes in early on Tuesday morning as volunteers prepare for another day.
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Amanda Harvey of DOC Takaka ties a tag onto a dead pilot whale as rescue efforts continue in the background.
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The rescue operation is put on hold as volunteers tally the number of dead and surviving pilot whales.
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DOC workers look over a pod of stranded pilot whales as rescuers leave for the evening.
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A German tourist helps out.
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Project Jonah volunteers form a human wall in an attempt to coax the disorientated whale pod into deeper waters.
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Volunteers shepherd a refloated pilot whale out of shallow waters at Farewell Spit.
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A stranded pilot whale lies on the beach at Farewell Spit.

A pod of 40 pilot whales has restranded on Farewell Spit, just hours after they were refloated by volunteers this morning.

Around 100 whales stranded at the Spit, on the northwest tip of the South Island, around midday yesterday.

Thirty-four whales died overnight, while 17 others freed themselves at high tide. The surviving whales were refloated by volunteers this morning.

SMALL CHANCE OF REFLOATING: A pod of 99 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on Monday. There were previous mass strandings in the area in January and November.
SMALL CHANCE OF REFLOATING: A pod of 99 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on Monday. There were previous mass strandings in the area in January and November.

But this afternoon, volunteers were again digging deep to restart emergency first aid as the animals returned to the beach.

"The tide dropped so quickly and there was a huge effort from volunteers to stop the animals restranding, but now they've grounded again," Project Jonah chief executive Kimberly Muncaster said.

"We'll be desperately trying to keep them alive until nightfall and we hope they may refloat themselves at high tide around 11.30pm."

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Muncaster said when the whales were refloated, volunteers knew there was a chance they could end up back on the beach.

"We hoped it wouldn't be the case, but sadly these animals are finding it very hard to get back out to safe waters."

"This kind of restranding is not unusual for Golden Bay. Although the animals were refloated they didn't move quickly enough in the right direction."

The pod of 17 whales that refloated overnight continue to make their way out of the bay and were last reported to have about 28 metres of water beneath them, Muncaster said.

At high tide about 11am, the 90 or so volunteers also became stranded on the spit as they had to wait for the tide to recede so buses could arrive to take them back to base.

Nelson's Dean Caron volunteered yesterday and today. It was his first stranding as a Project Jonah volunteer.

"You could really contribute and help people out. It was such a rewarding experience."

Freelance photographer Katinka Visser from Nelson was taking photos of the stranding for Project Jonah, the second time she had done so.

"I love the noises they make," she said.

"You feel satisfied. I dug one whale out completely on my own which was really rewarding. It's heart wrenching but amazing to be so close to them."

MANY STRANDINGS

Nils Alke of Germany was travelling in New Zealand and had come to the Spit to see some pictures and museum exhibits of past strandings. He found a real one instead.

"It was such a coincidence to see," he said.

"It would be even better to see them swimming in the sea."

Farewell Spit EcoTours manager Paddy Gillooly has attended about 10 strandings in the 25 years he has been a tour driver.
 
"From what I understand some of the ones that are left aren't that flash," he said yesterday.

"It depends on how high the tide comes tonight, which way the wind blows, because they are in a place where the tide will just float them. It depends on how strong they are when the tide comes in. You won't know anything until the sun comes up tomorrow morning."
 
This was the third stranding this summer.

The spot where the whales were stranded is close to where 25 were stranded early in January.

Seven of those whales died, while 65 whales died after becoming stranded in the same area in November.