Attempts to refloat more whales

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 13:00 15/01/2014
Gary Wakefield
CHARLOTTE SQUIRE/FAIRFAX NZ

HERE TO HELP: The Oudhoff family, from Invercargill, say a whale rescue was the last thing they expected to be doing during their holiday in Golden Bay.

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Volunteers were today trying to refloat eight pilot whales that re-stranded on Farewell Spit after being rescued last night.

Thirteen whales stranded yesterday. DOC said this morning five had died, one yesterday afternoon and four overnight.

Department of Conservation conservation services manager John Mason said this morning that Project Jonah volunteers, DOC staff and Golden Bay locals stayed with the whales until they were refloated just before dark last night.

"When we left, they were floating. When we got back this morning, they were in the same place."

Mr Mason said there were enough volunteers, including Project Jonah volunteers and new DOC staff, with the whales this morning, and the mood was "optimistic".

"We'll have a go at getting them out mid-morning. We're hoping, with a boat, we can encourage them to go out. We'll give it our best shot."

He said the wind was due to reach 25 knots later today, which could hinder the boat team's efforts to encourage the whales back out to sea, and it was difficult to know whether the boat technique would work.

"Sometimes they're responsive to it, sometimes they're not".

DOC staff lost sight of the other 55 whales in the pod that were still at sea yesterday, due to choppy conditions.

Volunteers and DOC staff worked all day to keep the 13 whales wet and upright as they waited for high tide about 9pm.

The whales are located about 7km along the eastern side of Farewell Spit.

Strong winds chilled the volunteers yesterday as they worked to care for the whales.

Many were holidaymakers visiting Farewell Spit, who were recruited to help with the early stages of the rescue.

Anze Slivnik and Tina Pirh, from Slovenia, said they were out walking when a girl asked them to help.

Hank Oudhoff, from Invercargill, who was taking care of a large whale with his family, said helping the whales was an amazing experience.

"They know you're helping them."

He said the cold wind wasn't affecting them, as they were from the Deep South and used to "minus two".

Oldest son Kirk Oudhoff said it was a "bit of a change from rearing cattle". Youngest son Travis Oudhoff said saving the whales felt "awesome".

Jessie Langdon, who was visiting from Waikato, spent the afternoon keeping seawater in a pool for cooling the whales as the tide crept out.

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- Nelson

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