Whales all at sea: No new strandings in Golden Bay

Hundreds of whales in second New Zealand stranding able to swim free

A stretch of sand in New Zealand was the scene of both tragedy and triumph this weekend as rescuers raced to save hundreds of stranded pilot whales after 300 others died in one of the country's largest beaching events.

The Department of Conservation says the Golden Bay coastline is clear from Farewell Spit to Collingwood.

"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.

Hundreds of volunteers from farmers to tourists have spent days at the beach dousing the whales with buckets of water to keep them cool and trying to refloat them. Another 100 have been refloated by volunteers and more than 200 swam away unassisted.

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More than 600 and possibly as many as 700 pilot whales became stranded on the beach at the northern tip of the South Island the past three days. I understand they're concerned about people's welfare.

They were also re-floated and were seen swimming offshore on Sunday.

"This would also explain why most mass strandings happen in summer, when the whales follow popular food sources inshore", the agency writes. 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.

The series of mass strandings are the largest on the New Zealand mainland since records began.

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

Seventeen whales stranded at Golden Bay overnight and these selfless helpers are doing what they can to save them, but they need help. Almost 700 whales were stranded on Farewell Spit along New Zealand's South Island.

The bodies will eventually be moved to a non-public area of the nature reserve, the BBC reports.

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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