Hundreds of Stranded New Zealand Whales Swim Free

Posted February 16, 2017

New Zealand authorities have said they will move the carcasses of hundreds of whales that died in a mass stranding to an area not open to the public.

On Thursday evening, a conservation worker spotted that about 400 whales had washed ashore.

"These things explode from the stomach, and if you're standing right there, it's not very nice getting a "gut bomb" on your face," operations manager at the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC), Mike Ogle, told Stuff NZ.

The warning follows good news today, where a number of whales were successfully refloated - with the help of authorities and members of the public - after they beached themselves this morning.

Lamason estimated 666 whales beached themselves "but that will get the conspiracy theorists going", he added, referring to the figure which is the reputed Biblical reference to the devil. Another 100 have been refloated by volunteers and more than 200 swam away unassisted.

About 300 died and volunteers re-floated the survivors, only to see a separate pod become stranded nearby on Saturday afternoon. Officials will soon have to start clearing the carcasses, Christophers said. More than 500 people worked for days to help save as numerous stranded whales as they could.

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The shallow, sweeping spit is believed to interfere with the whales' navigation systems and is a regular scene of mass strandings.

"Rangers this morning searched coastline on the western side of Golden Bay to as far along the inner side of Farewell Spit as it was possible to go and no stranded live whales were seen", the department said in a statement. The problem with towing them out to sea or leaving them is that they could become gaseous and buoyant, and end up causing problems by floating into populated bays.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and Friday's event was the nation's third-biggest in recorded history, the AP reported.

In 2015, 337 dead whales were discovered off the coast of Patagonia in southern Chile - the largest whale stranding of baleen whales to date.

Volunteers at Farewell Spit worked to keep the stranded whales wet. In 1985, about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.