Pilot Whales Refloated After Hundreds Stranded on New Zealand Beach

More than 200 whales swim away after New Zealand stranding

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.

All told, almost 700 whales washed up on Farewell Spit in what is now the third-largest whale stranding since data collection began in the 1800s, and the largest ever since 1985, the Department of Conservation said.

"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," DOC operations manager Mike Ogle told Fairfax Media.

The crisis began Friday when a pod of 416 whales beached themselves on the spit.

But around 300 whales died on the Golden Bay side of Farewell Spit as volunteers worked strenuously to keep the surviving marine mammals alive by cooling them with water.

They were part of the larger group of around 200 whales that were stranded Saturday, but the 17 re-stranded themselves after those whales were refloated.

Officials will soon need to dispose of hundreds of carcasses. I understand they're concerned about people's welfare. Trish Grant of the DOC said staff members were out in boats and at the beach ready to deter the whales if they started swimming toward the shore.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) cordoned off the bodies and urged the public to call them if they found whale carcasses that had floated off the beach and washed up on nearby shores.

The shallow seabed surrounding the spit is believed to interfere with the whales' sonar navigation systems and regularly sees mass strandings. "Hopefully that makes them a lot less buoyant and less likely to drift off".

"We are watching the bay at this time and hoping the pod swims into deeper water", Project Jonah said of the group of over 200 whales in a post on Facebook. Almost 700 whales were stranded on Farewell Spit along New Zealand's South Island.

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

In this case, it might have also been simply the wrong place at the wrong time for the unfortunate animals, with experts noting that Farewell Spit is a particularly hard place for whales to navigate, as the sand banks reflect sonar poorly.

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