Tuesday, December 20, 2005

123 Pilot whales stranded near Farewell Spit, New Zealand

Over 120 whales stranded at Farewell Spit

TUESDAY , 20 DECEMBER 2005

map Cape Farewell

Over 120 pilot whales were today beached near Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island.

About 100 volunteers and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff were this evening trying to keep the 123 whales moist in the hope they would refloat themselves when high tide returned about 2am, DOC Golden Bay manager John Mason told National Radio.

Sheets were covering the whales and they were being soaked with buckets of seawater, Mr Mason said.

The volunteers and staff could not remain on the beach overnight as it was too dangerous but would return tomorrow morning to see how many whales remained.

satelite picture beach Puponga
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Pilot whales beached at Farewell Spit
Dec 20, 2005

More than 120 pilot whales have beached themselves near Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island.
The Department of Conservation says the whales are spread over about a kilometre at Puponga Beach. They became stranded when the tide went out about 1pm on Tuesday.
DOC Golden Bay manager John Mason says about 100 volunteers were trying to keep the whales comfortable with wet sheets, but hey were not able to stay with the whales overnight because it was too dangerous.
Mason hopes at least some of the whales will be able to refloat themselves at the next high tide.
However, he says it is likely not all the whales will refloat themselves and volunteers will be allowed back on the beach at dawn if necessary.

Pilot whales have stranded at the beach in the past.
Source: RNZ/One News



Nature News
Mass whale stranding on New Zealand beach
By DPA
Dec 20, 2005, 19:00 GMT

Wellington - A group of more than 120 pilot whales remained stranded on a New Zealand beach on Tuesday and conservation workers said most were unlikely to survive the night.
Ten of the whales, believed to have followed a sick member of their pod into shore near Farewell Spit at the north end of the South Island, died before volunteers were forced to leave the beach for fear of being trapped in darkness by the incoming tide, news reports said.
About 150 volunteers, including foreign tourists, worked for hours pouring water over the stranded whales and covering them with wet blankets but were unable to get them back into deep water at Puponga beach, on Golden Bay.
Reporters said the scene was heart-breaking with many volunteers in tears at the sound of baby whales in the pod crying.
Department of Conservation workers said it was hoped many of the whales who are spread over about one kilometre of beach would refloat themselves at the next high tide, but they feared there would be heavy losses.
Those still stranded will have to wait for the following high tide on Wednesday afternoon. Conservation workers and volunteers planned to return to the beach at first light to review the situation.

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DOC hopeful high tide will refloat some of stranded whales
Posted at 9:31pm on 20 Dec 2005

More than 100 whales stranded at the top of the South Island are being left to try to refloat themselves on the high tide early in the morning.
About 120 pilot whales beached themselves at 2pm on Tuesday at Puponga Beach, near Farewell Spit.
More than 100 volunteers tried to keep them comfortable with wet sheets but Department of Conservation manager John Mason says they had to leave before darkness.
He told Checkpoint it was not safe for them to stay with the whales overnight.
Mr Mason says it is unlikely all the whales will refloat themselves on the 2am high tide, and volunteers will be allowed back on the beach at dawn if necessary.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand


Frantic efforts to save whales
21 December 2005
By ANNA CHALMERS

Hundreds of Farewell Spit residents and tourists have joined conservation workers in a frantic battle to help 123 stranded whales, and more rescue attempts are planned today.
The pod of pilot whales began beaching themselves at Puponga at midday yesterday and by last night were strewn the length of the beach, at the top of the South Island, the Conservation Department's Golden Bay area manager, John Mason, said.
Three had died by early last night. "They have basically thrashed themselves to death," Mr Mason said.
Everything possible was being done to keep the others alive. "We've got sheets and blankets over them and we're keeping them damp. We've also set up sprinkler systems with pumps so we're getting water on to them that way."
Rescuers from Project Jonah and Marine Watch are expected to help DOC staff and locals to refloat the pod at high tide about 2pm today.
Farewell Gardens Holiday Park manager Shelagh Schaab said hordes of tourists were also helping. "There are about three times as many people as whales. They are using their own shovels and spades."
The volunteers were asked to leave the beach last night. DOC marine specialist Andrew Baxter said it was too dangerous to try to refloat the whales in the dark at high tide this morning. "People's safety is our first priority."
Mr Mason said it was likely that only about a third of the whales would be able to get themselves afloat unaided overnight. While some were close to the high-tide mark, others further up the beach would probably need help.
Mr Baxter said strandings were common between November and February, but this was the region's first since 1998.


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Whales still stranded
Posted at 6:10am on 21 Dec 2005

Conservation staff and volunteers are this morning trying to save a pod of pilot whales stranded since yesterday near Farewell Spit, at the top of the South Island.
A total of 116 pilot whales beached themselves at 2pm on Tuesday at Puponga Beach, near Farewell Spit.
Some were expected to refloat themselves at high tide at 2am, but the Department of Conservation expects many to still be on the beach. At least 10 of the whales are dead.
Volunteers with wet sheets yesterday tried to keep the whales hydrated.
The next opportunity to refloat the whales will be at high tide this afternoon, just after 2pm.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand


Rescuers back helping stranded whales
21/12/2005 6:25:02

Rescuers are back at a beach near Farewell Spit again this morning, to see whether efforts to save a pod of 116 whales have succeeded.
The mammals beached at Puponga, at Golden Bay, yesterday. By nightfall, at least ten had died.
Volunteers and DOC staff hoped many of the whales would swim back out to sea at high tide, which was at 2am.

Whales still stranded
21/12/2005 7:07:03

It appears none of the whales stranded at Puponga in Golden Bay have made it back to sea overnight.
Around 115 whales are stuck on the beach. High tide was early this morning but none of the whales have refloated.
John Mason from the Department of Conservation says the survival rate seems to have been fairly good and only one of the mammals has died over night, although ten perished yesterday.
He says volunteers and DOC staff will be trying to keep the whales as calm and hydrated as possible before attempting to free them on this afternoon's high tide.
Mr Mason says hundreds of volunteers will be needed if there is to be any hope of saving the whales.

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Rescue continues for Pilot Whales
Dec 21, 2005

A major rescue operation is underway near Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island where more than 100 pilot whales have been stranded since Tuesday.
The Department of Conservation says the whales are spread over about a kilometre at Puponga Beach.
About 50 volunteers are already at the scene, and more are expected, to make an attempt to re-float the whales.
The next opportunity to refloat the whales will be at high tide just after 2pm.
Some of the whales were expected to refloat themselves at high tide at 2am but the Department of Conservation says many are still be on the beach.
At least 20 of the whales are dead.

Source: RNZ


Frantic effort to save whales

21 December 2005

Conservation workers and volunteers are today battling to save the remaining 116 pilot whales at Farewell Spit after the biggest mass stranding of whales in the country since 1993.
Despite rescue efforts, around 10 of the estimated 123 whales are believed to have died.
This morning another 40 whales were seen offshore near the stranded group.
Visitors from as far afield as China and Germany yesterday worked alongside Golden Bay residents trying to keep the whales as comfortable as possible on the beach at Puponga, on the west side of Golden Bay.
Whales are being covered with wet sheets and blankets and water poured over them to try and keep them cool.
Volunteers worked until about 8.15pm when Department of Conservation (DOC) whale rescue co-ordinators cleared the beach, partly for people's safety.
"It would be too dangerous to work in the dark and also futile. To move the whales back out to sea we need to get them all together first," said Hans Stoffregen, biodiversity manager of DOC's Golden Bay office.
The next opportunity to refloat the whales will be this afternoon at high tide.
The drama began about 11.30am yesterday when Puponga resident Linda Campbell looked out of her home window and spotted a large pod of whales swimming in shallow water.
She contacted the Takaka Department of Conservation Office, who immediately sent out rangers Simon Walls and Clayton Ross in a boat to attempt to intercept the whales before they became stranded.
Golden Bay area manager John Mason said that workers had tracked the pod of whales after seeing them looking confused and milling around near the shore.
"It wasn't a great surprise to us when they began to strand when the tide turned and began to go out."
The first whale had stranded about 2pm and the rest of the pod of 4-5m whales had progressively stranded.
The whales had beached in two groups, with one group of 60 whales near the top of the beach and another group of 63 whales becoming stranded further out.
Mr Stoffregen said the best way of righting the whales was to dig around the flippers and get their flippers into water, being careful not to injure them with spades..
For some of the larger whales which were up to 5m long, it took five people to right them.
Once this job was done the animals were covered with sheets, with a space being left around the blowhole, when the task of keeping the whales cool and wet could begin.
"We've also got some pumps down there so we're going set up some sprinkler systems," Mr Mason said.
As the afternoon wore on a few of the whales died on the beach, including a couple of mothers who had baby whales beached beside them.
Ranger Mr Walls said it was possible for whales to survive for up to three days on a beach if they were kept moist.
He said the weather, with squally showers and offshore north-westerly winds, was "typical stranding weather".
German backpacker Martin Huehmergarth said he was in the Farewell Spit cafe looking at photos of whale strandings and minutes later "we were up to our hips in the sea bailing buckets of water doing it for real".
"It is so sad to see them all," he said.
Japanese visitor Mieko Sato said she spent a couple of hours helping out.
"We want to do what we can," said Ms Sato.
There had been other mass strandings in the area, the last in 1998 when about the same number of whales had beached.
Mr Walls said Farewell Spit was a trap.
"The shallow shelving beach, the spit and the configuration of headlands seems to cause navigation problems for them. These conditions seem to trigger strandings," he said.

Whales' fate in the hands of the tides
21 December 2005

The fate of more than 100 pilot whales stranded on Puponga Beach in Golden Bay hinges on whether rescuers can refloat them on the high tide early this afternoon.
Nineteen of the whales had died by this morning after efforts to refloat the stranded mammals failed last night.
It was New Zealand's biggest mass stranding since 1993.
More than 120 volunteers battled to save the whales until just before nightfall yesterday, covering the large mammals with sheets and continually pouring seawater on them to prevent their skins drying out.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) had hoped that most of the whales would free themselves during a high tide overnight, but instead they became more stranded than before.
DOC spokesman Darren Foxwell, who was at the site all night, said the whales were initially in two large groups, but the group stranded further out had moved up the beach to join the others.
DOC staff estimate that between 116 and 123 whales are stranded.
About 70 volunteers - local people and visitors - returned to the beach early today to keep the whales hydrated and comfortable. More were expected to arrive later.
"We're hoping for up to 200 people in full wetsuits to help with the big rescue operation between 12 and 1pm today at high tide," Mr Foxwell said.
"We're hopeful the rescue will be successful but it is not an easy stranding, because the whales are spread over an area of 300m from top to bottom, so some of them will be well afloat before the sea reaches the whales highest up the beach."
Tourists from as farafield as China and Germany joined the rescue effort yesterday, many of them having never seen a whale before.
"It's just like (the movie) Whale Rider but probably without the happy ending," Rebecca Archibald from Somerset, England said.
DOC whale rescue coordinators cleared the beach about 8.15pm, yesterday, partly for people's safety.
"It would be too dangerous to work in the dark, and also futile," said Hans Stoffregen, biodiversity manager of DOC's Golden Bay office.
"To move the whales back out to sea, we need to get them all together first."
The drama began about 11.30am yesterday when Pakawau resident Linda Campbell looked out of her window and spotted a large pod of whales swimming in shallow water.
She contacted DOC's Takaka office, which immediately sent rangers Simon Walls and Clayton Ross out in a boat to attempt to intercept the whales before they could strand.
DOC spokesman Greg Napp said three whales came in very close, with one of them becoming beached.
"A crew of five tried to move the stranded whale with slings to ease it out but then all the others came back to check out the one whale as the tide dropped."
Whale rescue coordinators organised volunteers into pairs to comfort each whale. Instructing one group, Mr Stoffreggen said: "The best way of righting the whales is to dig around the flippers and get their flippers into water, being careful not to injure them with spades."
It took five people to right some of the larger whales, which were up to 5m long.
Once this job was done the animals were covered with sheets, with a space left around the blowhole, and the task of keeping the whales cool and wet could begin.
German backpacker Martin Huehmergarth found it a sad experience.
"We were in the Farewell Spit cafe looking at photos of whale strandings and minutes later we were up to our hips in the sea bailing buckets of water, doing it for real."
Japanese tourist Mieko Sato had helped out for a couple of hours.
"We want to do what we can," said Ms Sato.
DO ranger Simon Walls said it was possible for whales to survive for up to three days on a beach if they were kept moist.
He said the weather, with squally showers and offshore northwesterly winds, was "typical stranding weather".
No one knew exactly why the pod had become stranded but Mr Walls said strandings had occurred in the area before.
"Farewell Spit is a trap. The shallow shelving beach, the spit and the configuration of headlands seems to cause navigation problems for them. These conditions seem to trigger strandings."

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Whales may not survive if midday rescue unsuccessful
Posted at 11:30am on 21 Dec 2005

Attempts to help more than 100 pilot whales beached in Golden Bay, continue today.
The Department of Conservation says many of the whales stranded at Puponga Beach, near Farewell Spit, will not survive today, if they can't be refloated on the next high tide.
A total of 123 pilot whales beached themselves at 2pm on Tuesday along 1km of Puponga Beach, near Farewell Spit. At least 10 are dead and DOC says others are becoming increasingly distressed.
Around 100 volunteers are covering the whales with wet sheets and pouring buckets of water on them.
DOC and volunteers are trying to keep the whales hydrated. A Radio New Zealand reporter at the beach says cloudy, drizzly weather is helping the rescue mission.
An attempt will be made around midday to refloat the whales. DOC says it's impossible to tell what will happen when they try to do so.
Rescuers are hoping for a repeat of a rescue mission about 15 years ago in the same area, in which 300 mammals were refloated.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand

Tidal hopes for whales' survival
21/12/2005 12:36:03

The rising tide has reached the first of the whales as rescuers prepare to help them to safety.
More than a hundred whales have beached at Puponga in Golden Bay and rescuers hope to refloat the survivors on the high tide at 2pm.
Conservation Department spokeswoman Trish Grant is at the scene and says up to 300 volunteers have come out to help. However, she says they have got a tough job ahead of them.
She says this stage is crucial as the whales all need to be moved out at the same time. Out of the original 123 whales which came ashore yesterday, there are 115 whales still alive.
Meanwhile a whale expert says there are no assurances the stranded whales will survive.
Dr Padraig Duignan from Massey University says because they have been out of the water for around 24 hours, they will have suffered significant muscle damage, which he doubts they can recover from.

Whale rescue at critical stage
Posted at 2:51pm on 21 Dec 2005

A whale rescue mission in Golden Bay hangs in the balance after a 24 hour effort by rescuers.
More than 125 whales stranded since yesterday afternoon have been slowly guided towards sea off Puponga Beach, at Farewell Spit, by hundreds of volunteers and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff.
The pod is slowly moving out to sea, but DOC officials say it is too early to claim success, as the whales could yet head back into the shore.
Rescuers are hoping for a repeat of a rescue mission about 15 years ago in the same area, in which 300 mammals were refloated.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand


Hopes for pilot whales
21/12/2005 15:03:03

Most of the pilot whales which were stranded for hours at Golden Bay have headed back to the deep.
Rescuers encouraged the mammals back to sea as high tide passed less than an hour ago. They are being shadowed by Department Of Conservation and volunteer boats.
Classic Hits Nelson breakfast host Kent Robertson is in the water amongst the rescuers. He says the key thing now is to discourage the whales from turning around and coming back to rescue other members of the pod.
Department Of Conservation workers estimate about 15 of the 123 whales have died.
There is still hope the whales will survive, although experts fear the mammals will be exhausted by their stranding ordeal.


Whales turn back to shore
21/12/2005 17:30:07

Despite nearly 24 hours of trying to get more than a hundred whales back to sea in Golden Bay, it looks as if conservationists' attempts may have been futile.
The pod has now turned back towards the shore. The mammals were successfully refloated and heading towards deeper water just after high tide this afternoon.
However the exhausted whales are now turning back to shore at Puponga Beach.
Department Of Conservation staff and volunteers in boats will now try to coax them back the other way.
One of the helpers at Golden Bay says they are getting ready to spend another night there caring for the whales and trying to send them back into the water

Second stranding of whales
21/12/2005 18:05:02

There has been a second stranding involving some of the pilot whales which were re-floated from Golden Bay this afternoon.
The Department Of Conservation says 55 came back ashore but they have since been sent out to sea off Farewell Spit again.
Staff and volunteers are now trying to coax the whales back further towards the deep.
They are slapping the water to create bubbles as a deterrent to the mammal as they head for land.
Classic Hits host Kent Robertson, speaking from one of the boats attempting to redirect the whales, told Newstalk ZB's Larry Williams that the volunteers are working hard. However, he says they do not know if it will become another all-night vigil. It is now 24 hours since the saga first unfolded.



Whales back out at sea
21/12/2005 19:01:03

Volunteers and DOC officials in Golden Bay hope a pod of exhausted whales will stay out at sea.
Fifteen of the pilot whales have died on Puponga Beach, but the rest were re-floated this afternoon after being stranded for nearly 24 hours. The task of getting them back into the deep has been full of trials.
At one stage the whales turned back to shore, and 28 of the stragglers became stranded again just two kilometres from their departure point.
DOC spokeswoman Trish Grant says the entire pod is now back in the sea. She says people in the water were able to get the whales refloated and move them back out to sea
Trish Grant says there is still a chance some whales could re-strand.
One of the volunteers was Nelson Classic Hits radio announcer Kent Robertson who says a vast number of volunteers were still on hand, standing waist deep in the water watching the whales as they head out to sea.
He says the rest of the pod waited while the stranded whales were refloated.
He paid tribute to the hard work of all the volunteers who took part in the rescue exercise.

Whales restranding after massive rescue effort
21 December 2005
By COLIN MARSHALL

Rescuers who helped save more than 100 whales stranded along Puponga Beach on the South Island's Farewell Spit this evening faced the heartbreak of seeing 10 of the whales in trouble again just a kilometre down the beach.
About 15 of the estimated 123 pilot whales that stranded from about midday yesterday died before the pod was shepherded out to sea by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and hundreds of volunteers on the second high tide about 2pm today.
But just three hours later, after many of the volunteers had gone home, about 10 of the whales were back in shallow water about 1km south along the beach.
DOC Golden Bay spokeswoman Trish Grant said efforts were focussed on trying to prevent another mass stranding and on getting the 10 whales already in trouble back to sea.
"They're in shallow water at the moment and we're hoping we can turn them around before they're completely stranded.
"They're still floating but the tide's going out."
Other whales were also milling around close by and boats and volunteers were in the water trying to keep them away from shore.
Ms Grant said the rescuers were hugely disappointed.
"We've been quite hopeful that they were all going to go safely out to sea and we didn't have to worry about them again.
"It is a bit gutting really."
Ms Grant said they might yet need to call for more volunteers.
She said historically only about 60 per cent of stranded whales survived before being refloated so for only 15 of the 123 whales to die so far was a remarkable effort.
As with last night, the rescuers would do what they could before dark if the whales could not be shepherded out to sea, Ms Grant said.
But if they did completely strand, once it was dark, rescuers would have to leave the beach as it would be too dangerous.
Another high tide would arrive in the early hours of the morning and the whales may be able to refloat on their own.

Scores of stranded whales rescued off New Zealand

Wed Dec 21, 2005 1:12 AM ET
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - More than 100 pilot whales stranded on a beach at the top of New Zealand's South Island were refloated by volunteers on Wednesday and conservation officials in boats herded the mammals out to sea.
Hundreds of volunteers, including tourists, refloated the beached whales just before high tide at around 2 p.m. (0100 GMT), about 24 hours after they were stranded.
A handful of the whales tried to swim back and ground themselves again about three hours later, but rescuers formed a human chain to force them back into open water.
"This was certainly a lot easier than this morning's (rescue) because they hadn't completely grounded, although some of them had to be lifted across the mud," rescuer Craig Potton told Radio New Zealand.
"You grab it by the nose, just like elephants in Nepal, you manhandle them and push them. You just push like hell to make it go out, in the final analysis -- you don't muck around," he said.
In previous strandings, whales have broken away from a rescued group and led the others back to the beach.
About 15 of the estimated 115 long-finned pilot whales died on Puponga Beach, about 150 km (93 miles) northwest of the city of Nelson, before volunteers were able to refloat them.
The whales initially beached themselves over a wide area on Tuesday but grouped together overnight as the sea came in. They were washed with water to keep them cool and prevent their skin from drying out before they were refloated.
New Zealand, which has 41 whale species in its waters, has a high rate of strandings because of its long coastline and sometimes shallow waters, said Anton van Helden, collections manager of marine mammals at the New Zealand museum Te Papa.
In January 2003, 159 pilot whales were stranded on New Zealand's southern Stewart Island. The largest stranding on record was of 1,000 pilot whales in 1918 on the Chatham Islands, 800 km (500 miles) east of the mainland.
Conservation ranger Simon Walls said it was not known how the latest pod had become stranded, but it had happened in the area before.
"The shallow shelving beach, the spit and the configuration of headlands seems to cause navigation problems for them. These conditions seem to trigger strandings," Walls told the Nelson Mail newspaper.


Golden Bay notorious for strandings
Dec 21, 2005

Golden Bay is particularly notorious for pilot whale strandings and during the 1990s there was one nearly every year.
The strandings always happen during the summer which is why whale experts call these months 'the silly season.'
Over the years the beaches of Golden Bay have become a grave to hundreds of migrating whales and Auckland University biologist Dr Rochelle Constantine says the whales just mess up.
"They just misjudge the depth of the water and that's perhaps why often these strandings are in long shallow bays like in Golden Bay," says Constantine.
Records as far back as the 1940s describe regular strandings of "black fish". In those days there was no urgent flurry to refloat them and they slowly rotted, causing a stench for months.
In the past 20 years there have been 10 strandings at Golden Bay, with nearly 900 taking place in the 1990s. In 1990, 100 were stranded followed by 300 the following year.
Most years more than half were refloated, but several hundred have died and been buried on the beaches were they died.
Scientists don't know why whales strand, but there are plenty of theories. One of the most common surrounds the pod following a sick member.
"Often there's a sick individual in the group - usually a female - and the other animals are so bonded to that animal that they will follow her and not leave her while she's there," says Constantine.
The problem with Golden Bay is that once refloated it's a difficult place for the whales to escape because of its shape.
Farewell Spit blocks the route to the north and the shallow waters make whale sonar almost useless, which is why in the past many pilot whales have returned to the beaches after being refloated.

Source: One News

Volunteers refloat 115 stranded whales

Hundreds of volunteers have refloated more than 100 pilot whales stranded on a beach at the top of New Zealand's South Island.
Conservation authorities are preparing to herd the mammals out to sea to keep them from returning.
The volunteers, who include tourists, refloated the beached whales just before high tide around 2:00pm local time.
That is about 24 hours after the whales became stranded on Puponga Beach, about 150 kilometres north-west of the city of Nelson.
"Once we've got them refloated, there'll be some boats used to try to herd them out to sea and that could go on for some hours," Department of Conservation spokeswoman Trish Grant said.
Before the whales were refloated, they were washed with water to keep them cool and prevent their skin from drying out.
Ms Grant says most of the estimated 115 long-finned pilot whales have headed out to sea.
She says rescuers are considering using a helicopter to help prevent them from returning to the beach.
The whales initially beached themselves over a wide area but moved together overnight as the sea came in.
"I think people feel a very strong connection with the whales and are quite touched by their plight," Ms Grant said.
"I think there's quite a buoyant mood because people were glad to be involved in trying to help rescue these whales."
New Zealand, which has 41 whale species in its waters, has a high rate of strandings because of its long coastline and sometimes shallow waters.

- Reuters


Whales head back to sea

Dec 21, 2005

The whales that re-beached at the top of the South Island have headed back out to sea.
Just hours after more than 100 whales were refloated in Golden Bay, about 50 returned to shore, but a further rescue effort means they are on their way out to open water once more.
Craig Potton from the Forest and Bird Society was one of about 50 volunteer rescuers who formed a human chain to push the whales out so sea and says it has been exhausting but satisfying work.
Potton says everyone hopes it is the last they will see of them.
The Department of Conservation says it will closely monitor the situation.
A total of 123 pilot whales beached themselves at 2pm on Tuesday along a kilometre stretch of the beach.
Volunteers with wet sheets tried to keep the whales hydrated before being forced to abandon the rescue operation as the incoming tide and nightfall was deemed too dangerous.
Some were expected to refloat themselves at high tide at 2am on Wednesday, but all of the whales stayed stranded on the beach.
The volunteers returned on Wednesday morning again covering the whales with wet sheets and pouring buckets of water on them in a bid to keep them hydrated. Cloudy, drizzly weather helped the rescue mission.

At least 10 whales died overnight.

The remaining whales were herded out from Puponga Beach by hundreds of volunteers on Wednesday afternoon's high tide.
It is not the first time whales have beached at farewell Spit. About 15 years ago 300 whales were refloated in the same area.


Whales stranded again in Golden Bay
Posted at 7:37pm on 21 Dec 2005

Some of the whales floated off Puponga Beach in Golden Bay after a massive rescue effort have beached themselves again.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) says at least part of the 125 strong pod has returned to an area south of where they were stranded on Tuesday afternoon.
DOC is now examining its options, including launching another rescue operation.
Hundreds of volunteers herded the pilot whales from Puponga Beach at Farewell Spit at high tide on Wednesday.
DOC worker, Andrew Baxter, says after the first massive rescue effort, the second stranding is extremely frustrating.
He says if the whales in this latest stranding come from the same pod, some may be beyond help and may have to be put down.
About 10 of the whales have died since stranding themselves on Tuesday.
Rescuers were hoping for a repeat of a rescue mission about 15 years ago in the same area, in which 300 mammals were refloated.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand


Second whale stranding averted
21 December 2005
By COLIN MARSHALL

Tired rescuers were tonight hoping a pod of pilot whales would swim peacefully out to sea and keep away from the beach after they had to hop back in the water and stop the whales from stranding for the second time in as many days.
The 123 whales first beached at Puponga, in the South Island's Golden Bay, about midday yesterday and after a massive rescue operation, were refloated from about 2pm today.
But just a few hours later, about 55 of the pod began getting into shallow water again about 1km south of the original stranding and 28 of them reached a point where they needed help again.

"We had people in the water and boats on the water and the people were able to refloat the whales – they were just beginning to get stuck on the bottom," Conservation Department (DOC) Golden Bay spokeswoman Trish Grant said.
"They were moving away but who knows what will happen from here on in."
Ms Grant said everybody was hoping that they had seen the last of the whales on the beach.
"We think it was a fantastic result really that we were able to get to them in time before they had a chance to strand and get them moving, because they were really beginning to sink into the sand beneath."

She said the volunteers had accepted the whales re-stranding as it was common in such cases, although it was hard to know why.
The beach would have to be cleared by dark tonight as it was too dangerous for people to stay and watch for the whales.
"There's a plane going up at first light and they'll scan the beaches and see if there's any sign of whales on the beaches – and we hope not."

About 15 of the pod had died by the time they were first refloated.

Some of the whales that survived had suffered scrapes and were not in very good condition after their ordeal, Ms Grant said.
Earlier, the many rescuers had worked tirelessly keeping the whales damp with seawater and sheets before the tide was high enough to attempt the refloat.

Ms Grant said the whales had reacted well to the many volunteers and DOC staff taking care of them.
"They seem to accept it quite readily – you don't have any sense of agitation and certainly the people get very fond of the whales they are looking after and they become very concerned for them.
"There's an awful lot of emotion around it and heartfelt concern on the part of the people."
Nelson publisher and Forest and Bird member Craig Potton was one of the rescuers.
He was "ecstatic, euphoric" after seeing the whale he was helping swimming back out to sea.
But despite the value of the experience, he was glad it was over.
"After a long period of time even with wetsuits on, it gets cold, even though it's summer and the water's warm," he told National Radio.
When it came time to refloat, four people had all pushed and pushed the whale until it swam off in the right direction on its own.
"That's what's extraordinary about them. If you can imagine any large animal might object to that sort of behaviour but no, they're very gentle."
He said they had nicknamed the whale they were helping Bono – as it was singing all the time.

Whales head back out to sea after second stranding
Posted at 8:06pm on 21 Dec 2005

A pod of stranded whales, beached at the top of the South Island, are finally heading back out to sea.
The pod of 125 whales were discovered stranded on Puponga Beach, Golden Bay on Tuesday afternoon. After a large rescue effort by 300 volunteers and Department of Conservation staff, the pod was refloated at high tide on Wednesday afternoon.
However, by 5pm, 50 of the whales had returned to the shore, stranding themselves on the beach again.
Craig Potton from the Forest and Bird Society was one of about 50 volunteer rescuers who formed a human chain to push the whales back out to sea. He says it has been exhausting, but satisfying work.
The Department of Conservation says it will closely monitor the situation overnight.
DOC worker, Andrew Baxter, says after the first massive rescue effort, the second stranding was extremely frustrating.
Rescuers were hoping for a repeat of a rescue mission about 15 years ago in the same area, in which 300 mammals were refloated.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand


100 whales pushed out to safety
Reuters
22dec05

MORE than 100 pilot whales stranded on a beach at the top of New Zealand's South Island were refloated by volunteers yesterday and conservation officials in boats herded the mammals out to sea.
Hundreds of volunteers, including tourists, refloated the beached whales about 24 hours after they were stranded.
A handful of the whales tried to swim back and ground themselves again about three hours later, but rescuers formed a human chain to force them back into open water.
"This was certainly a lot easier than this morning's (rescue) because they hadn't completely grounded, although some of them had to be lifted across the mud," rescuer Craig Potton said.
"You grab it by the nose, just like elephants in Nepal, you manhandle them and push them.
"You just push like hell to make it go out, in the final analysis – you don't muck around."
German backpacker Martin Huehmergarth said he was in a beach cafe looking at photographs of whale strandings when, minutes later, the whales were stuck on shore.
"We were up to our hips in the sea bailing buckets of water, doing it for real. It is so sad to see them all," he said.
Japanese visitor Mieko Sato said she spent a couple of hours helping out, noting: "We want to do what we can."
About 15 of the 115 long-finned pilot whales died on Puponga Beach, about 150km northwest of the city of Nelson.
The whales initially beached over a wide area on Tuesday but grouped together overnight as the sea came in.
They were washed with water to keep them cool and prevent their skin from drying.


Whales stranded without an answer
22 December 2005
By ANNA CHALMERS

New Zealand has the highest rate of whale strandings and, as research advances, theories surrounding earthquake and sonar interference are gaining ground.
Since records began over 165 years ago, more than 2500 strandings have been recorded in New Zealand, involving more than 15,000 whales or dolphins.
International marine scientists believe there is a link between the use of high-intensity sound and recent mass strandings of whales and dolphins.
Massey University marine mammal pathologist Padraig Duignan said it was possible earthquakes played a role.
"They (whales) are exquisitely sensitive to sound. Sound travels very fast in water and so you could have an earthquake somewhere distant, but the sound waves still get to animals here and maybe disorient them."
There have been several earthquakes in central New Zealand this month, but no one is sure what led the 123 pilot whales to strand at Puponga, Farewell Spit, on Tuesday.
Spots like Farewell Spit, Stewart Island and Mahia are "whale traps", with hooks of land jutting out to sea. The geography, combined with shallow waters, gently sloping beach and tidal action, meant shore-roaming pods were easily captured, said Project Jonah stranding rescue adviser Sheryl Gibney.
Dr Duigna said a combination of factors was likely to be responsible. The pod could have been caught by a receding tide as it migrated south, or there could be a sick member, which led the others ashore.
"In a way they are very much like sheep. If one animal gets stuck they all stick around and respond to the distress call."
Ms Gibney said when whales were refloated they were all oriented to face the sea. "Once they have all regained their balance they are released en masse and shepherded out to sea with boats."

Plane to check whereabouts of whales
Dec 22, 2005

The Department of Conservation is checking that the whales floated off Golden Bay beaches on Wednesday, have not beached themselves again.
More than 100 pilot whales were floated off Puponga beach on Wednesday afternoon; but about half the pod beached again further south two hours later.
The pod of 125 whales was discovered stranded on Puponga Beach, Golden Bay at 2pm on Tuesday.
After a large rescue effort by 300 volunteers and Department of Conservation staff, the pod was refloated at high tide on Wednesday afternoon.
However by 5pm 50 of the whales had returned to the shore, stranding themselves on the beach again. Volunteers were able to quickly herd them back to deeper water.
DOC says it can't be sure the whales won't beach again and has sent an aircraft to search the bay.

DoC plane to check whereabouts of whales
Posted at 7:33am on 22 Dec 2005

The Department of Conservation is today checking that the whales floated off a beach in Golden Bay yesterday, have not beached themselves again
A plane was sent up this morning to look for any sign of the whales; but has not spotted any so far.
A DOC spokesperson says the plane is still completing its flight, and there are no signs of any whales below.
More than 100 pilot whales were floated off Puponga beach yesterday afternoon; but about half the pod beached again further south two hours later.
The pod of 125 whales was discovered stranded on Puponga Beach, Golden Bay at 2pm on Tuesday. After a large rescue effort by 300 volunteers and Department of Conservation staff, the pod was refloated at high tide on Wednesday afternoon.
However, by 5pm, 50 of the whales had returned to the shore, stranding themselves on the beach again. Volunteers were able to quickly herd them back to deeper water.
DoC says it can't be sure the whales won't beach again.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand

Plane on whale watch
22/12/2005 5:29:04


DOC staff hope a pod of rescued whales has made its way safely to sea.
The 108 surviving mammals were refloated by officials and volunteer's during Golden Bay's high tide yesterday afternoon. The pod initially turned back to shore and 28 whales became momentarily stranded, but the pod was heading back out to sea last night.
DOC spokeswoman Trish Grant says a plane will scour the coast for any stranded whales this morning.
Fifteen of the pilot whales which initially beached at Puponga on Wednesday, died on the shore.

No sign of whales
22/12/2005 7:14:03

A sweep by plane of the Golden Bay area has shown no sign of the whales which were stranded at Pupongo yesterday.
Conservation Department spokesman Harri Rautjoki says the plane went up at about 6am and searched much of the northern part of the region before heading out along to the bottom end of the spit. No whales were spotted.
The plane will look over the area again later this morning.
More than 120 whales stranded on the beach on Tuesday. At least 15 died.

Whales spotted back in shallow waters
22 December 2005

The pod of over 100 pilot whales refloated yesterday has been spotted back in shallow waters this morning near Pohara Beach on the eastern side of Golden Bay.
They were seen by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff in an aircraft over Golden Bay beaches, scanning the area for any sign of the whales after they were refloated yesterday afternoon.
The whales were refloated off Puponga Beach, with tired rescuers diverting the whales a second time after some of the pod began returning to shallow water.
About 20 of the 124 which first beached at Golden Bay about midday Tuesday died.
DOC spokeswoman Trish Grant said DOC staff were on their way to the beach in boats, in case they had to try and herd the whales back out to sea.
Ms Grant said the whales were in no immediate danger as the tide was still going out.
"But they're still in Golden Bay southeast of where they were yesterday, so there's a concern they will re-strand.
"The crucial time will come this afternoon when the tide is coming in."
The number of whales closest to the beach could not be confirmed. Pohara Beach was another shallow beach that would threaten the whales.
DOC staff would monitor the situation from boats in the bay today.
There has been no calls for volunteers, but Ms Grant said it could be possible.
"The situation is obviously not over and done with. We would be grateful if people could be alert, and keep an ear out."
DOC spokesman Martin Heine said a boat would continue to move alongside the pod, monitoring the direction of the whales.
It was unfortunate, but sometimes it took several cycles of strandings for the situation to be resolved.
"I hope this doesn't come to nothing. We are monitoring the situation closely," he told NZPA.
It was not easy to herd the whales out to sea because there were so many of them.
Mr Heine said DOC was "absolutely delighted" with the efforts of volunteer rescuers yesterday.
More boats were being prepared, and some people had already been alerted to the change in situation, but there was no planned callout for assistance yet.
High tide was expected at 2.45pm. The danger of stranding would occur about two hours afterwards, he said.

Refloated whales spotted
22/12/2005 9:34:04

The pod of whales which was refloated yesterday has been spotted off Port Tarakohe south of Golden Bay.
A Department of Conservation spokesman says the mammals are still swimming out into deep water and a boat monitor their travels later this morning.
He says a resident at Parapara Beach on the western shoreline of Golden Bay has called saying some of the whales are off the coast. That sighting will also be checked out.

Whale rescuers' nervous wait for all-clear
22 December 2005
By JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN and JO DAVIS

Golden Bay whale rescuers will find out today if their attempts to refloat a stranded pod of about 120 pilot whales have been successful.
Rescuers at Puponga Beach, at the base of Farewell Spit, feared the worst last night when about 28 whales, which were refloated mid-afternoon, beached themselves again a kilometre down the beach.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Golden Bay spokeswoman Trish Grant said 55 long-finned pilot whales got into shallow water about 4.30pm yesterday at the beach where the mammals were first stranded about 12.30pm on Tuesday.
"About 28 got into difficulty in shallow water. They were starting to sink to the bottom, but people in the water managed to lift them up and get them moving again," she said.
"We've been quite hopeful that they were all going to go safely out to sea and we didn't have to worry about them again. It is a bit gutting, really."
Rescuers would not know if the whales were out of danger until this morning, she said. "We will put a plane up at first light to check to see whether there are any stranded whales in the morning."
More than 200 volunteers had managed to refloat the whales at high tide about 2pm, Grant said.
Puponga resident Lynne MaGuire said the mood yesterday morning was sombre when people saw the whales still stranded.
"Everyone just knew there was a job to be done and they knew it was a long time before the tide was to come in," she said. "A lot of whales were on their side and needed attention. It was a lot of work.
"It's quite a settlement atmosphere – a whole kind of community of people with the same agenda."
While the mood lightened as the tide came in, it was the hardest point for MaGuire.
"It was actually the most horrible, horrible thing because once they start to get water around them they start whistling and calling," she said.
"Some of the babies were distressed and calling and calling. It was happening all through the day. That was the bit that got me. It's certainly been emotional."
Many of the whales probably would not survive if they became stranded again, MaGuire said.
"I don't like their chances, especially the big ones. A lot were having difficulty breathing and you could sense a heaviness of body as they were lying on the sand," she said.
"I guess at the end of the day you do what you can do. It's a comfort to know I did the best I could."
Fifteen whales have died so far.
English backpacker Chris Pearce got more than he bargained for after commenting to friends three days ago that he hoped to see a whale.
Pearce, who is staying in Takaka, spent the past two days with hundreds of other volunteers comforting the stranded whales.
"I have never seen a whale before and I mentioned I hoped to see one. Then suddenly I got a call the following day. It was quite bizarre," he said.
"It's just sort of something I have never done. You never believe you are going to be near something like that and you never believe you can help."
After spending about four hours comforting the whales on Tuesday, it was upsetting to see the mammals still there yesterday morning. "It was quite emotional to think they all stick together when one is not right and they come to help," he said.
"It's nice to know you have helped out. We just did as much as we could and when the whales headed out to sea, that was it really. I don't think you really take it in at the time; you just do what you have to do."
Brent Hartshorne, of Takaka, said it had been a long couple of days. "It's a pretty big event for Golden Bay, with a lot of locals involved," he said.
"It's a real kind of camaraderie, especially when you can see a positive outcome like we have.
"A lot of locals were ecstatic to see them out to sea.
"We're just hoping they don't beach again. It's very stressful for them being out of the water because they can't signal each other. The young and the old are the first ones to die."
A staff member from the Farewell Spit Visitor Information Centre said the centre and cafe had been "flat out" over the two days with volunteers and DOC staff in the area.
New Zealand visitors to the region, as well as German, English and Chinese tourists, had been helping the whales, she said.

Whales heading for high seas

Fears refloated whales at Golden Bay may head back to shore with next high tide

22 December 2005

There are fears the refloated whales at Golden Bay may head back to shore with the next high tide, but so far, they are still on track for freedom on the high seas.
The 100-strong pod of pilot whales stranded at Puponga on Tuesday and were refloated yesterday afternoon.
Earlier this morning there were fears the mammals were going to ground again, however DOC spokesman Greg Napp says at the moment the pod is about five kilometres off Tarakohe Harbour.
He says they appear to be heading along the Abel Tasman coast, but he would prefer they were a further 10 kilometres toward the open sea.
Mr Napp says staff are preparing for the high tide when the whales are in danger of heading in towards the shore.

© 2005 NZCity, NewsTalkZB

Pilot whales heading out to sea
Posted at 4:41pm on 22 Dec 2005

A pod of pilot whales is heading steadily but slowly out of Golden Bay at the top of the South Island.
The 100 or so whales were refloated from Puponga beach on Wednesday after being stranded for over 24 hours.
The pod briefly threatened to beach itself again on Thursday morning at Pohara Beach - but DOC staff in boats herded them back into the bay.
A DOC spokesperson says the whales were last sighted just after midday heading towards Separation Point and out of Golden Bay.
Pod first came ashore on Tuesday
More than 100 pilot whales were floated off Puponga beach on Wednesday afternoon, but about half the pod beached again further south two hours later.
The pod of 125 whales was discovered stranded on Puponga Beach, Golden Bay at 2pm on Tuesday. After a large rescue effort by 300 volunteers and Department of Conservation staff, the pod was refloated at high tide on Wednesday afternoon.
However, by 5pm Wednesday, 50 whales had returned to the shore, stranding themselves on the beach again. Volunteers were able to quickly herd them back to deeper water.
Altogether, 21 whales died during the incident. Department of Conservation community relations manager, Greg Napp, says samples will be sent to Massey University's whale study programme.
Mr Napp said there is no way of knowing if there will be other strandings.

High rate of strandings in NZ
A previous stranding in Golden Bay occurred on November 4, 1994 at Farewell Spit. Some 47 whales were dead.
According to DOC's website, New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings. Since 1840, more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins have been recorded around the New Zealand coast.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand

Last Updated 22/12/2005, 12:52:49

A pod of more than 100 pilot whales, which were refloated after being stranded on a New Zealand beach earlier this week, have been seen heading back into shallow waters.
The whales have been located by conservation department staff flying over Golden Bay at the top of New Zealand's South Island.
Conservation department spokeswoman, Trish Grant, says staff are again being assembled in case they are needed to herd the whales back out to sea.

Volunteers bury 24 whales
23 December 2005
By HELEN MURDOCH

Kaumatua Te Aroha (Losa) Holmwood prayed and cried as 24 of the pilot whales that stranded on Puponga beach were buried.
The mass grave lies within sight and sound of the sea at the base of Farewell Spit, the notorious sandy arm which has trapped so many marine mammals in the past.
But while the digger gently shifted the sand dune over the mammals' grave yesterday, 100-plus whales saved by a mass of volunteers swam powerfully out to sea.
"The whales have feeling for each other, if one gets sick or hurt they follow it in to shore," said Holmwood.
"Then all the people come out and nurse and bathe them so they can get back out to sea, but unfortunately these ones did not go back."
The incoming tide lapping piles of excavated sand off Puponga beach, in a second rescue effort, was the only sign yesterday of this week's massive effort to save some 120 long-finned pilot whales which stranded high on the intertidal shore on Tuesday.
Across from the beach, in the campground of Farewell Gardens Holiday Park, British visitor Kulbir Dhingra marvelled at his unexpected brush with the mammals.
He and his family arrived to find Puponga packed with cars and people.
"I've never experienced anything like it, we spent the whole day helping. They are very gentle and respond when you pour water over them," Dhingra said.
"It was an amazing vibe and I felt like I was doing something useful and important.
"And so many people came from so far away – the community effort was incredible."
The family's decision to go to yesterday's burial was simple, he said.
"We had to get closure on it."
The Golden Bay Department of Conservation whale co-ordinator Simon Walls, meanwhile, looked exhausted, but happy so many whales could be saved.
He has managed three major rescue operations in as many days.
The main effort to refloat the stranded whales was a marathon effort, with 300-plus volunteers and DOC staff from as far away as Nelson working together and patiently waiting for the tide.
People are the powerhouse of a refloating. We just co-ordinate things behind the scenes," Walls said.
By 5pm they had got the whales bunched together in chest-deep water. Then they had to wait for the stressed mammals to recover enough to start swimming.
"If you put your head under the water it was buzzing with whale communication," Walls said. "It seemed to take forever to rally and find a sense of direction, then they literally got into a formation, formed a line about a kilometre long and started to head out."
Boats stayed with the pod until the wind raised the sea to a rough chop, then a splinter group of 50 curved back to shore, about 5km south of Puponga, he said.
Volunteers who were still at hand moved rapidly to the new site and quickly turned the whales around, using belly slings and sheer muscle, herding them back out to sea.
Early yesterday morning the whales were spotted by plane moving back towards shore, this time near the Rototai bar, on the southern side of Golden Bay.
DOC workers moved quickly and stopped them and turned them in a metre of water before they beached.
Dissection of the dead whales showed their stomachs were empty, said Walls.
Walls said the stranding scenario could not have been much worse.
The whales were very high on Puponga's long intertidal beach, inside the shelter of Puponga Point and the tides were very poor. The site of the stranding was a long way from urban populations of volunteers, he said.
"Still we didn't lose any people and we didn't lose too many whales. It's better than the bad old days when stranded whales were just shot, or totally ignored."

Whales gone from Golden Bay
Posted at 10:14am on 23 Dec 2005

A pod of whales which beached themselves this week in Golden Bay appear to have left the area.
More than 100 pilot whales were stranded on Puponga Beach for over 24 hours this week, prompting a massive rescue effort.
21 whales died before the pod headed back out to sea.
The Department of Conservation sent a plane over the area this morning, to patrol the beaches for sightings of the mammals.
But a spokeswoman, Debbie Neale, says there was no sign of the whales in or around Golden Bay.
The whales were first discovered stranded on Puponga Beach, Golden Bay about 2pm on Tuesday. They were refloated on Wednesday after being stranded for over 24 hours - but about half the pod beached again further south two hours later.
The pod then briefly threatened to beach itself again on Thursday morning at Pohara Beach - but DOC staff in boats again herded them back into the bay.

Whales stay away for Christmas
23/12/2005 13:18:02

A welcome early Christmas gift for Conservation Department staff in Golden Bay.
A spotter plane sent up about 8am has not seen any sign of the 100-strong pod of pilot whales which stranded at Puponga earlier this week.
DOC spokesman Greg Napp says the plane was up for about an hour checking the beaches from Separation Point round to Farewell Spit.
He says it is a great relief for the staff who worked so hard to save the whales. He says they can now enjoy the Christmas break with a clear conscience.
Twenty-five whales died over the 24-hour period that the pod was beached at Puponga.

High rate of strandings in NZ
A previous stranding in Golden Bay occurred on November 4, 1994 at Farewell Spit, in which 47 whales died.
According to DOC's website, New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings. Since 1840, more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins have been recorded around the New Zealand coast.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand

4 more whales beached in Golden Bay
Posted at 3:19pm on 28 Dec 2005

The Department of Conservation says four more pilot whales have died in the past few days from a pod which beached themselves in Golden Bay last week.
DOC spokesman Hans Stoffregen says individual whales beached themselves at Pohara and Tata, and two more today at Farewell Spit.
Three died on the beaches; one, at Pohara, had to be shot.
DOC says about 28 whales have died since a pod of 125 whales became stranded at Puponga on December 20 for more than 24 hours. The majority were successfully refloated with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
Mr Stoffregen says a large pod of whales has been reported off Wainui Bay in Golden Bay; but he's unsure whether this is the same group from a week ago.

Copyright © 2005 Radio New Zealand

Three more dead whales found today
28/12/2005 17:16:02


The death toll from last week's Golden Bay whale stranding has increased.
Around 125 Pilot whales beached at Puponga last week.
About a hundred of them were re-floated.
However some of the weaker ones appear to have separated from the group.
An adult male had to be shot after being found at Pohara Beach three days ago, and a baby was found dead at Tata beach yesterday.
Just today three more have been found at Farewell Spit.
DOC spokesman Hans Stoffregen says the latest strandings are sad but need to be viewed in perspective.
He says without the help of the public the numbers would be higher.

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