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Refloated whales beach again

Published: 5:30AM Tuesday January 24, 2012 Source: ONE News

The struggle continues to refloat dozens of whales which stranded again after being freed.
Volunteers have spent the last two days trying to help about 100 pilot whales beached on Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island.

Ninety nine whales beached there yesterday morning. Thirty nine were found dead this morning. Twenty six are thought to have returned to sea on last night's high tide, leaving 39 in need of help.

"It's incredibly sad to see those that have died, but our focus is always on the live ones," Kimberly Muncaster, Project Jonah Chief Executive told ONE News.

"So while we're going through the steps necessary to get those live ones refloated, that's where our energies lie."

Department of Conservation Takaka ranger Nigel Mountfort said the whales are located about six kilometres down Farewell Spit.

"It's a place that is pretty inhospitable overnight."

Volunteers heard the call for help with some traveling from Invercargill to nurse the whales.

Invercargill-based volunteer Lydia Uddstrom, in the water helping the rescue effort, said she has always had an "absolute passion" for marine mammals, so would do anything she could to help them out.

This morning's high tide allowed rescuers to refloat the remaining pod.

Mountfort said rescuers in wetsuits would try to form a human wall and try to stop the whales coming back ashore.

But the whales turned back to shore.

'Whale trap'
Muncaster said Golden Bay is one of New Zealand's most notorious spots for whale strandings.

"It's a whale trap. We've got a long finger of sand that literally juts right out in the migration path of these animals."

For now, volunteers and whales are beach-bound, waiting for high tide around midnight when the whales may be able to float or swim away.

The whales were first seen milling close to the shore around lunchtime yesterday and grounded on a receding tide at the stranding site.

In early January 18 long-finned pilot whales were successfully refloated after 25, part of a pod of 70, stranded at Farewell Spit.