Whale watch ends for tonight as low tide passes video


Volunteers have raced to save stranded whales - but there's one big catch.

A pod of 150 or more pilot whales was still at sea about two kilometres offshore from Pakawau on the western side of Golden Bay this evening as the Department of Conservation staff finished their watch for the whales stranding in the area for tonight.

But DOC staff will search the coastline early tomorrow for any stranded whales.

The watch has ended tonight after low tide has passed and if the whales should strand tonight they would be refloated in the incoming tide.

Department of Conservation Golden Bay Operations manager Andrew Lamason had said high tide was at 11.30am and they would ...

Department of Conservation Golden Bay Operations manager Andrew Lamason had said high tide was at 11.30am and they would try to re-float the stranded whales then.

The last three nights three separate pods of whales beached over, and Farewell Spit was closed to volunteer rescuers as darkness fell there was fear there would be carnage in the morning.

As the sun set on Saturday, the Department of Conservation cleared the beach of volunteers as it became too risky to carry out efforts to refloat the up to 200 whales beached in five separate groups along the coast from as far as Puponga to Triangle Flats along the Spit.

Volunteers led by the DOC tried desperately on Saturday to deal with the new beachings on top of the remainder of the original standing of 416 on Thursday.

Volunteers form a human chain to stop the fresh pod of 200 whales from stranding.

Volunteers form a human chain to stop the fresh pod of 200 whales from stranding.

Video: Devastating vision from Farewell Spit
Photos: Whales as far as the eye can see
Why is saving the whales so important to New Zealanders?

DOC operations manager Andrew Lamaman confirmed the whales in the latest stranding were unmarked, which indicated they were from a new, unidentified pod.

Existing volunteers and DOC staff were attempting to reach the fresh stranding sites, while still trying to keep the ones from the original stranding on Thursday night alive.

A further 100 whales were found stranded on Saturday morning.

A further 100 whales were found stranded on Saturday morning.

Volunteers had until 8pm on Saturday night, when DOC closed the beach until the morning. 

Ad Feedback

At high tide on Saturday morning, hundreds of whales were pushed offshore by volunteers who formed a human chain in the waves. 

However, despite efforts by volunteers the whales were once again at risk.

17 more whales have washed up this morning less than a kilometre away from where 400 stranded themselves on Friday.

17 more whales have washed up this morning less than a kilometre away from where 400 stranded themselves on Friday.

By Saturday afternoon, DOC cleared the spit and euthanised 20 of the surviving whales which were too ill to be rescued or stay alive with a rifle. 

Operations Manager for DOC Golden Bay Andrew Lamason said it was a matter of weighing up resources.

"You have to hedge your bets, whether you use your resources to save 20 whales that are very sick or 200 healthy ones."

"There's a disastrous number of dead animals there at the top of the beach," Neil Murray said.

"There's a disastrous number of dead animals there at the top of the beach," Neil Murray said.

Volunteers turned up on Friday and focused on keeping the whales cool as well as propping them up with sand to prevent them from breaking their fins.

Hundreds of volunteers turned up on Saturday morning to help the whales back into the sea as the tide came in.

Project Jonah general manager Daren Grover said there were about 40 whales left.

About 80 of the whales stranded earlier were either successfully refloated on Saturday morning or they had joined the larger super pod around midday.

"We don't know why the super pod came in," Grover said.

"They may have been picking up some calls from the whales here and come in to respond. It's very unusual, not something we have seen before.


There's no one reason why whales become beached.

"As long as [the super pod] heads in the direction they are going in now it's okay," he said.

Volunteer Kerstin Moll was in the water as the pod approached. She said she was afraid the pod would come closer.

"They were full of energy and moving really fast," she said.

"They had a bunch of stingrays with the new whales. The smaller pod came close, I think what they are looking for is a larger whale who can lead them. The people are just trying to make them follow the others, but they didn't."


Earlier, the volunteers were warned of the threat of sharks in the area.

Some of the 100 stranded whales on Saturday morning had been attacked, and there had been a concern over blood in the water. There was also worry over stingrays.

Earlier Department of Conservation Golden Bay Operations manager Andrew Lamason had said high tide was at 11.30am and they would try to re-float the stranded whales then.

"We have a bit of a problem today with the hot sun which is not good for the whales. We were lucky yesterday with the cloud," he said. "People will have to be more vigilant today with buckets and towels."


Thursday night's stranding of the pod of 416 whales was thought to be the third largest stranding of whales recorded in the country's history.

The huge pod had been seen swimming in Golden Bay that night.

About 300 – close to 75 per cent – had died by the time Department of Conservation (DOC) staff arrived on Friday morning.

The dark-coloured carcasses were strewn along the beach, most of them at the high-tide mark.

Department of Conservation operations manager Neil Murray said the stranding was the worst he had seen.

"There's a disastrous number of dead animals there at the top of the beach," Murray said.

"The carnage at the top of the beach, that's out of mind, just that volume of animals."

Staff from DOC, Project Jonah and volunteers attempted to re-float the survivors at high tide, about 10.30am, but were only partially successful.

An estimated 50 whales, including the pod's matriarch, returned to the sea.

However, the remaining 80 to 90 survivors re-stranded in shallow water.

The mission for volunteers then changed to keeping them alive as the tide receded and the whales were exposed in puddles, or on the sand.

About 500 volunteers used sheets to cover the whales' thick skin and buckets to continuously pour water over them to keep them cool.

Having been cared for by hundreds of volunteers, about 50 surviving whales were left alone overnight. It had been hoped they would re-float naturally and swim back to sea at high tide, about 11.30pm, but that had not happened.

Murray said because the high tide was at dark, volunteers would leave for their safety.

"We just can't leave people out here for the night," he said."You can't guarantee safety."

He said there were a "whole bunch of reasons" why it wasn't safe for volunteers to remain after dark, including the risk of shark attack.

Photos by a RELIVE360 photographer who went out to help the whales stranded at Farewell Spit on Friday.

He said at least one of the whales had marks on it consistent with being chewed by a shark, which could have happened while it was stranded in the shallows.


There were many theories among the people at Farewell Spit for why the whales stranded.

Murray said it was possible there were some sick animals that went in to strand and the rest of the pod followed.

Project Jonah coordinator Mark Rigby said he could not comment on the reasons for the stranding.

"All we know is it keeps happening. There will be people who will argue that it's natural. We're here for the welfare of the animals."

Comments on this article have now closed.

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Million dollar wind fall

The winning ticket in Wednesday night's $1 million draw was sold at Countdown Browns Bay on Auckland's North Shore.

Mid-week celebrations for a lucky Aucklander after Lotto win.

Children love the taniwha

Mahi Pai at Manukau Institute of Technology.

More than 1500 South Auckland youngsters were treated to the very popular Mahi Pai taniwha performance over Māori Language Week.

Wide Awake at Hawkins Theatre

Hawkins Theatre is staging the play Wide Awake.

An award winning children's play is hitting the stage in Papakura.

Counselling for crash witnesses

The car hit five students then crashed into a fence.

"Traumatised" witness saw children, bags and paper flying as car slammed into students near bus stop.


Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.

Capital train strike likely

Capital commuters are likely to face disruptions as rail workers prepare to strike.

Disruptions ahead for Wellington rail commuters as employment dispute boils over.


'Bound together by cancer' video

Christchurch father of two  Kevin "Chalky" Carr received the news that his pancreatic cancer was back  and his prognosis ...

This time last week, cancer patient Chalky Carr had never met Isla Lunn. Now he's raising $100,000 for the 7-year-old.

Service 'horrific' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Woman calls for funeral industry to be regulated after ongoing problems following her daughter's death.

Bike theft at bottle-point

Two friends were robbed of their bikes at bottle-point near Papanui High School.

The two robbers fled on bikes stolen from men in Northcote, Christchurch.

Car used in kidnapping found video

The vehicle that was stolen from Andrew Cameron's home near Hanmer Springs, a silver 2017 Nissan X-Trail, is loaded onto ...

A vehicle stolen after a Canterbury man was hit in the face with a pistol and kidnapped from his home has been found 120km away.


Seven daring ducklings rescued 

The rescue operation saw the safe retrieval of seven ducklings from a Whitianga drain.

It took half an hour to rescue the seven ducklings from the depths of the drain.

Cocaine, cash found

The armed offenders squad helped execute a search warrant in Te Aroha.

Seven searches in Te Aroha were undertaken netting cocaine, cash and five arrests in a pre-dawn raid.

Historic pub killing set for trial

Chris Bush was shot and killed in October 1987.

Two men to stand trial next year over the murder of pub manager Chris Bush 30 years ago.

Kiwis want water levy

Farmers protested perceived attacks from politicians in Morrinsville on Monday, September 18. A new survey shows the ...

The majority of Kiwis want to see farmers pay for water use, a new survey shows.


Ngā Manu Kōrero begins

Dr Ruakere Hond addressed the manuhiri (visitors).

Students from 52 schools across Aotearoa have arrived in New Plymouth for a speech competition.

Principal search

Lynda Stuart, president of the NZEI, said there are ore principal vacancies than usual.

Four schools are looking for principals, and another four are looking for deputies and assistants.

The 'hero' in the beauty aisle

Shane White's training kicked into action as soon as he got to the man who collapsed in the beauty aisle.

Ian Foreman collapsed in a New Plymouth supermarket only for the produce manager to save his life.

Truck rolls, spills load of urea

A truck rolled on Opunake Rd, spilling urea, and blocking the area to traffic.

Truck and trailer unit rolls and spills load.


The final debate video

From left, Greens candidate Thomas Nash, NZ First MP Darroch Ball, National candidate Adrienne Pearce, Money Free Party ...

Palmerston North candidates battle over mental health and Manawatū Gorge at final debate.

MP flees farmers

Labour candidate for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway left a farmer meeting about irrigation tax early.

Labour MP claims he was "physically pushed" and his van rammed.

Suspected armed robbery at BP

The BP service station in Main St, Palmerston North, has had another suspected aggravated robbery.

Two people are believed to have carried weapons into a BP and robbed it in Palmerston North.

Debate strikes useful balance

The Manawatu Standard candidates debate was broadcast live on Facebook.

OPINION: Election campaign meeting mixes information with humour and differences.


'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Power back on

A power outage on Wednesday afternoon has affected residents in Richmond, Brightwater, Wakefield and Mapua.

Power has been restored to 12,000 homes and businesses after a Transpower fault. 

Kea shooter sentenced

A man's been sentenced to 200 hours community work for killing a kea.

A man who shot at kea who were damaging his property has been sentenced to community work.


Dinner's in the bag

Sous chef Emily Hulburt, 5, helps out in the kitchen preparing a 'My Food Bag' recipe.

By her own admission, reporter Paula Hulburt is a whizz with a microwave. As the first delivery of My Food Bags arrive in Blenheim, she took one for a test drive.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Cafe confrontation

Prime Minister Bill English stopped in at BV Gourmet in Blenheim on the campaign trail on Tuesday. (File photo)

PM's coffee break gatecrashed as Labour candidate accuses National supporters of ripping down billboards.

Weather closes newly-fixed rail line

The Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch has been closed due to bad weather, just days after its post-quake ...

Just a single train managed to traverse the newly-repaired rail line from Christchurch to Picton before bad weather closed it again.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

S Canty businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The remains of the Waipopo property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.


Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.


Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Forestry gets favour: ES

Nicol Horrell, chairman of Environment Southland.

''Forestry operators will be able to operate at lower environmental standards than other resource users in Southland."

Quake off Southland coast

A magnitude 5.8 quake struck near Southland.

A 5.8 earthquake hit off the coast of Southland - but its shaking was unnoticeable, GeoNet says.

Ad Feedback