Warning issued over 100s of 'exploding whales' on NZ beach

Posted February 16, 2017

Volunteers try to help stranded pilot whales stuck on the shores of New Zealand's Farewell Spit on February 11, 2017.

What's most unnerving about the whole situation is that no one has been able to explain it, and it's not just happening in New Zealand - hundreds of whales have been running themselves aground all over the globe for years. Officials declared nearly 350 whales dead.

Conservation officials praised the work of the volunteers, who formed a human chain in the water at one point to prevent the whales from re-beaching themselves.

An environmental group is helping out with floating the whales by keeping track from a spotter plane flying over the bay.

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Earlier Sunday, volunteers and conservationists were attending to 17 that were found stranded again. Volunteers prepare to refloat stranded pilot whales.

The department's regional conservation manager Andrew Lamason said the immediate risk was that the rotting bodies would blow up as they filled with gas.

They were part of the larger group of around 200 whales that were stranded Saturday, but the 17 re-stranded themselves after those whales were refloated. Some scientists think geomagnetic anomalies may be causing navigation errors, while others believe the whales may be following sick or younger members of the group onto the shore.

Pilot whales grow to about 25 feet and are common around New Zealand's waters.

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"People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals", Herb Christophers, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation, told The Associated Press.

Farewell Spit is a 26-kilometre (16 mile) hook of sand that protrudes out into the sea and has been described as a flawless whale trap. "Hopefully that makes them a lot less buoyant and less likely to drift off". "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits".

"This is the third worst stranding that we've recorded in our history so it's a very large one".

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. It has been the site of previous mass whale beachings.

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