Pilot Whales Refloated After Hundreds Stranded on New Zealand Beach

Posted February 16, 2017

As a result, the Department of Conservation closed the beach, saying in a statement, "The area is now closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding".

Lamason estimated 666 whales beached themselves "but that will get the conspiracy theorists going", he added, referring to the figure which is the reputed Biblical reference to the devil.

"People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals", said Department of Conservation spokesman Herb Christophers.

Meanwhile, another pod of about 200 pilot whales were spotted around Taupata Point near Farewell Spit and officials feared another stranding Monday. Around 17 whales from the latest pod remain on the shore with carcasses of hundreds of other pilot whales that had become stranded there.

An environmental group is helping out with floating the whales by keeping track from a spotter plane flying over the bay. "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits".

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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.

Mr Lamason has suggested towing the bodies out to sea to let them decompose but the option could become gaseous and buoyant or end up washing into populated bays.

"Rangers this morning searched coastline on the western side of Golden Bay to as far along the inner side of Farewell Spit as it was possible to go and no stranded live whales were seen", the department said in a statement.

Pilot whales grow to about 25 feet and are common around New Zealand's waters. Some scientists think geomagnetic anomalies may be causing navigation errors, while others believe the whales may be following sick or younger members of the group onto the shore. It has a long protruding coastline and gently sloping beaches that make it hard for whales to swim away once they get close.

"It has been decided it is more suitable to take the dead whales out of the area that is open for public walking access", New Zealand's department of conservation said on its website. In 1985, about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.

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