Hundreds of Stranded New Zealand Whales Swim Free

Hundreds of Stranded New Zealand Whales Swim Free

DOC spokesman Herb Christophers said he hopes the strandings are over but that it was possible the mammals might return to the beach again.

Workers in protective clothing have been spending the days cutting up holes in the scores of carcasses after one of New Zealand's largest whale stranding.

"This is good news", it said in a statement this morning after more than 700 whales stranded in the area over the weekend and hundreds of volunteers pitched in to a huge relief effort to save them.

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

Another 200 whales became stranded near the original site on Friday prompting the DOC and Project Jonah to call for even more volunteers.

The strandings have been New Zealand's largest in decades.

People have formed human chains to try and stop the refloated whales from beaching again.

More than 600 whales had become stranded on the beach in the last three days.

Now that experts have said it's unlikely that a large, nearby pod will follow suit, the DOC is tasked with disposing of the 240 or so carcasses that remain.

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Similar questions were raised in 2011 when 107 pilot whales beached themselves on Stewart Island off the coast of the New Zealand mainland, just two days before 185 people were killed in the Christchurch quake. It was "like popping balloons", a DOC spokesperson told local radio.

The saga appeared to be over on Sunday, after the last 17 surviving whales successfully returned to the ocean and rejoined a pod swimming just offshore.

The shallow seabed surrounding the spit is believed to interfere with the whales' sonar navigation systems and regularly sees mass strandings.

Seventeen whales stranded at Golden Bay overnight and these selfless helpers are doing what they can to save them, but they need help.

The agency is now trying to figure out what to do with the carcasses of the dead whales.

About 300 whales will be moved with a digger and buried in the sand dunes further up Farewell Spit, South Island.

The first group of whales could have accidentally gotten too close to shore, and then got stranded as the retreating tide left the sandbanks exposed.

Volunteers at Farewell Spit worked to keep the stranded whales wet.

The bodies could take up to several months to decompose and turn into skeletons.

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