13 stranded whales refloated

Thirteen pilot whales that have survived a stranding in New Zealand’s far north have been refloated in calm waters.

Fifty-eight whales were found at Karikari beach yesterday and staff from the Department of Conservation used lifting equipment and diggers to get them to the sheltered Matai Bay. However, 45 other whales have not survived the stranding.

The department says half the surviving whales have headed out to sea, while the rest remain offshore in the bay.

Rough seas initially hampered the refloating efforts after the pod became stranded.

Volunteer rescuers spent the night using diggers and slings to try and lift the surviving whales into the back of trucks to move them one kilometre away to a more sheltered beach in attempts to roll them into the sea.

Earlier, department spokeswoman Carolyn Smith said two baby whales were among the pod.

“They’ve had people with them that have been soothing them and keeping them damp and making sure they don’t dry out or become overheated but it must be very stressful for the whales,” she said.

A pod of 101 whales washed up on the same beach 13 years ago.