Race to save 90 beached whales in New Zealand

Volunteers formed a human chain in the water to rescue pilot whales after more than 400 beached themselves on a beach in New Zealand.

The mass beaching happened at Farewell Spit, a narrow sand spit at the northern end of Golden Bay, on New Zealand's south island.

Pointer whales have a tragic tendency to return to the shore, even after volunteers push them back into the water, in a bid to rejoin the remaining whales that are on the beach.

On Friday, the Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and over 500 volunteers in New Zealand came out on a rescue mission after 416 pilot whales were discovered stranded near the base of Farewell Spit overnight.

The Department of Conservation Golden Bay operations manager Andrew Lamason said the survivors that had been refloated were now swimming in the wrong direction and headed back into the bay.

The next opportunity to save the remaining whales is scheduled for noon tomorrow (Saturday) when the tide comes in.

The volunteers brought towels, buckets and blankets to help keep the surviving whales wet and cool.

Nearly 300 volunteers and the staff from the Department of Conservation and organization Project Jonah and put in all their efforts to refloat the whales at high tide. Project Jonah noted that if one or two whales become stranded, they will send out distress signals and the species' "strong social bonds" will encourage the rest of the pod to come help.

The use of anti-submarine sonars was also suspected of causing the mass-beaching of whales in 2002, when some 15 beaked whales perished in the Canaries after a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercise.

According to Lamason, the reason behind the mass stranding of the pilot whales is not known yet.

This is the biggest mass stranding recorded in decades in New Zealand.

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

The high tide gave volunteers their only chance of the day to help the whales. "The most likely hypothesis is that pilot whales' echolocation is not well-suited to shallow, gently sloping waters, because they generally prefer high relief (steep) areas such as the edge of the continental shelf", according to a DOC fact sheet.

Republicans invite DeVos to North Carolina for advice on expanding school choice
Cleveland Cavaliers fall to Oklahoma City Thunder, 118-109