Pilot Whales Refloated After Hundreds Stranded on New Zealand Beach

About 335 of the whales are dead 220 remain stranded and 100 are back at sea. Source Supplied

About 335 of the whales are dead 220 remain stranded and 100 are back at sea. Source Supplied

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.

Hundreds of workers ranging from tourists to farmers spent days at the beach, keeping the stranded whales wet and cool with buckets of water and cloths.

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

Volunteers are in a race with time to make sure whales don't re-strand at Farewell Spit as low tide approaches. When volunteer rescuers left the beach for the night Saturday, hundreds of survivors from the second stranding remained ashore.

The whales were re-floated at high tide in the late morning but linked up with a so-called "super pod" of another 200 whales gathered off shore.

Volunteers in New Zealand managed to refloat about 100 surviving pilot whales on Saturday and are hoping they will swim back out to sea after more than 400 of the creatures swam aground at a remote beach.

There have been reports the 320 or so whales may "explode" on the beach where they lie on Farewell Spit.

"For such a majestic animal, it's really unusual to seem them doing this", volunteer Jonathan Jones said.

There were over 650 pilot whales caught in the shallows along Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island in New Zealand in two mass strandings this week.

Still, the outcome was largely positive - for a few hours, at least.

The DOC put out an urgent call for more volunteers to renew the efforts on Sunday. They gave them names, singing to them, basically treating them as kindred spirits. Tim Cuff, a marine mammal medic with Project Jonah, told the New Zealand Herald of emotional scenes over the mass deaths.

After Sunday's success, numerous volunteers gathered to sing a waiata, or a traditional Māori folk song, in honor of the newly departed whales. It has a long protruding coastline and gently sloping beaches that make it hard for whales to swim away once they get close.

Golden Bay operations manager Andrew Lamason says their fingers are crossed.

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