You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Joy as refloated whales stay at sea

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/02/2017

Whales refloated from Farewell Spit are staying at sea.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and will return at first light tomorrow to check the beaches," Project Jonah says.

As many as 1000 people came to the sand spit at the top of the South Island this weekend to deal with New Zealand's third-largest whale stranding.

Volunteers were smiling on Sunday morning after most of the more than 200 whales refloated on the overnight tide. They then helped another 17 on the beach back to the water.

The Department of Conservation's Herb Christophers said rescuers were delighted so many whales refloated overnight, especially since hundreds of animals had died in the past few days despite desperate efforts to save them.

"They got themselves off actually, they didn't need any help from us," he said.

As long as the rescued whales stay at sea, the focus on Monday will turn to dealing with the dead animals.

There have been reports the whales may "explode" on the beach.

"We are talking to iwi but the idea is to tether the whales with a long narrow fence to stop them drifting away and becoming a hazard in the water," a Department of Conservation spokeswoman told NZ Newswire.

"Then they will be left to bio-degrade in the marine environment. They will be de-gassed to allow the gas to escape," she said.

Local iwi representatives have provided a karakia, or prayer, over the dead whales.

On Sunday, Project Jonah-trained medics also taught 50-plus people a waiata, or song, to honour the whales that have died.

The environmental disaster began on Thursday night when 416 whales stranded, with 75 per cent found dead on Friday morning.

Since then, an army of volunteers have kept the surviving whales alive and participated in bids to refloat them, forming human chains to keep the whales offshore where there was a second pod. A few were euthanised and others re-stranded.

This week's event is the third-largest recorded in New Zealand since data started being collected in the 1800s.

About 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon