Hundreds of volunteers form a human chain to rescue 100 whales beached in New Zealand where 300 died this week
100 volunteers supported by three boats manage to turn whales away from shore by blocking their path
A DESPERATE mercy mission has been underway to save more than 100 whales amid New Zealand’s the worst stranding.
Neck deep, rescuers formed a human chain last night by linking arms to help scores of marooned pilot whales get back to the sea.
Already 300 have perished this week after becoming stuck on a beach in Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, New Zealand.
The tragedy is one of the country’s largest recorded mass whale strandings.
Hundreds of volunteers flocked to Golden Bay, at the northwest tip of South Island, after dawn broke and surviving whales were refloated at high tide by yesterday lunchtime.
But 90 quickly became stranded once again as the tide ebbed. About 50 more lingered in shallow waters near their beleaguered pod.
A conservation department worker spotted the whales washed ashore last night.
But the government agency decided against a night rescue effort because of the risk of accidents.
Rescuers took turns pouring water over the beached whales to try and keep them cool, while school children sang to soothe the distressed beasts.
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A ferry service offered free transport to qualified marine medics, while broadcast media carried a livestream of the rescue attempt.
Even for a country with the most whale strandings in the world, the scale of the latest event "was a shock," said Darren Grover manager of marine environmental organisation Project Jonah.
It was New Zealand's largest known whale stranding since 1985, when 450 were stranded in Auckland, and the third largest on record.
The precise cause of the stranding was not known, though beached whales are not an uncommon sight at Golden Bay.
Its shallow muddy waters confuse the marine mammals' sonar.
This is thought to leave them vulnerable to stranding by an ebb tide, according to Project Jonah.
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PILOT whales grow up to 20 feet long and are the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters. But tragically they are renowned for tragically swimming back ashore after being refloated in an apparent attempt to rejoin their pod. Each time a whale survives a stranding they become steadily weaker. The biggest stranding occurred when 1,000 whales beached at the remote Chatham Islands in 1918, followed by 450 that washed ashore in Auckland in 1985. Reports of whales beaching themselves have been recorded throughout history. But scientists believe whale strandings are becoming more common. Marine biologists think the reason for this is the increases in man-made materials and chemicals is causing greater pollution in the ocean. Sonar from the planet’s 51,000 strong merchant ship fleet may be interfering whales’ natural navigation, causing them to beach accidentally.
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