Subject: Pilot Whale Strabding:NZ volunteers battle to save s (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Sun, 12 Oct 1997 15:58:39 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 11 Oct 97 03:33:00 GMT 
Subject: NZ volunteers battle to save s

NZ volunteers battle to save stranded whale pod

    WELLINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuter) - Hundreds of volunteers worked
through the night on Thursday to save the survivors of a pod of
more than 100 pilot whales stranded on a north New Zealand
     By early afternoon, about 48 of the mammals had been
encouraged back to sea, using the swell of a high tide, but more
than 50 lay dead on Karikari Bay beach, conservationists said.
     All the live whales had been returned to the sea and rescue
efforts were focusing on ensuring the mammals head further out
into the Pacific Ocean.
      Television news showed people moving the other pilot
whales, between 5.6 and 8 metres long, into the shallows.
     Several older female whales, lifted and towed out into the
rising tide, helped lead the group off the sand as the waters
rose, and rescue coordinators said they were soon well offshore.
      The manoeuvre had been used successfully by rescuers in the
region in the past for similar strandings during the pilot
whales' annual migration between August and November.
      "We've ... put a spotter plane up to monitor their
progress," Department of Conservation (DoC) spokeswoman Wanda
Vivequin told national radio.
     "That plane will go up again just before sunset to check
that the pod has remained intact and none of them have drifted
off the side," she added.
     The distressed whales had been noticed high up on the shore
late on Wednesday, in the bay about 75 km (45 miles) from the
northernmost point of New Zealand's North Island.
     But 53 had died by the time volunteers started arriving with
rescue equipment, Vivequin said.
     An estimated 400 locals and visitors worked all night with
spades, water hoses, containers and towels to cool the whales,
spread along a 750 metre (yard) beach, as they waited for high
water and daylight to return to the sea.
     Volunteer fire crews brought equipment and school children
were given the day off to join in the effort, local media said.
   Richard Parrish, a DoC scientist, told TV3 news that it was
believed the whales' natural sonar, an echo based system of
navigation, was easily confused by shelving beach formations.
     "Perhaps they think they can come in closer than they
really can," he said.
     The biggest recorded stranding in New Zealand occurred in
1975 when 410 pilot whales went aground on the Great Barrier
Island near Auckland.