Dozens of whales stranded off New Zealand’s South Island

Over a dozen pilot whales died and many remain stranded near a sand spit at New Zealand’s South Island despite people’s efforts to move them back out to sea.

After a mass stranding at Farewell Spit, the whales were walked out at high tide that night, only to be found at the remote beach again the next morning. Some 28 were alive, while 15 were found to have died.

Some stranded whales started swimming away but others were milling around not far from shore, a spokeswoman for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said.

Rescue workers went in the water to encourage the whales to swim off. About 50 people – volunteers from Project Jonah, an environmental organization specializing in the protection of marine mammals, researchers, government officials, and the public – were at the spot to help re-float the whales.

Mass strandings are common in New Zealand and have occurred throughout recorded modern history.

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