Featured Image Credit:CreditRoss Wearing/Reuters
Cheree Morrison, a magazine writer and editor, stumbled across a horrific scene on a South Island beach early Friday morning. More than 400 pilot whales have been stranded on the remote stretch of beach. Carnage in numbers that New Zealand has never seen before.
With tears flowing from her eyes, Morrison commented, “You could hear the sounds of splashing, of blowholes being cleared, of sighing. The young ones were the worst. Crying is the only way to describe it.”
Knowing there was limited time and also very little they could actually do, Volunteers formed a human chain to prevent furthers strandings, covered the cetaceans with damp blankets and splashed water with buckets in an effort to keep the whales alive. With only one high tide per day, they’ll have one chance to refloat as many whales as possible until Saturday.
The Associated Press reported that, “Volunteer rescue group Project Jonah said a total of 416 whales had stranded. When high tide came, volunteers managed to refloat about 50 the surviving whales while the other 80 or 90 remained beached.”
Farewell Spit, which curls into the Tasman Sea, is no stranger to mass strandings… but these numbers have never been seen before. Community Ranger, Kath Inwood, stated, “Whale strandings occur most years at Farewell Spit, but the scale of this event came as a shock.”
There are many theories as to why a stranding on this scale occurred. Perhaps the pod was protecting a sick member or even chased their prey too far into the remote sliver of beach.
“It was just heartbreaking,” Morrison said. “Utterly heartbreaking.”
We are very thankful for the nearly 500 volunteers that are trying to save as many lives as possible during this tragic loss.