416 pilot whales have been stranded on a New Zealand beach Friday morning, in one of the worst incidences of its kind in the country's history.
The whales are located at Farewell Spit near the city of Nelson, with volunteers doing what they can to help save the surviving 100 whales. 250 to 300 are already dead, according to the Department of Conservation.
"It can be really quite distressing seeing so many dead whales," Kath Inwood, a ranger with the Department of Conservation, told AP. "People need to be resilient and handle that and then get on with what needs to be done."
There are 300 volunteers working onsite alongside staff from the Department of Conservation and organisation Project Jonah, with some people coming across the country to help. Inwood said that volunteers refloated the whales at high tide, forming a chain to stop them from swimming back onshore.
The area seems to confuse whales, as it's been the site of previous mass strandings.
Earlier, volunteers had tried to keep the surviving whales damp and cool by placing blankets over them, as well as throwing buckets of water on them while waiting for high tide to come.
There was only one opportunity on Friday to float the whales at high tide, as no work will be done overnight due to the risk to people. According to Newshub, half of the 100 whales have been re-stranded after they were refloated.
*stranding update* Some whales have re-stranded are being kept cool calm and comfortable by our medics and members of the public.
— Project Jonah (@ProjectJonah) February 10, 2017
While strandings have occurred before at Farewell Spit, the incident has shocked locals due to its magnitude.
Nature at its best and worst this morning at Farewell Spit pic.twitter.com/OBrHwYWg0K
— Cheree Phillips (@Chazza1014) February 9, 2017
Farewell Spit is a notorious Pilot Whale stranding hotspot with a topography prone to cause sonar termination in pelagic cetacean species. pic.twitter.com/NjhExzKTby
— Quad Finn (@Quad_Finn) February 10, 2017
— KiwiRail (@KiwiRail) February 9, 2017
Of the 416 Pilot Whales that stranded at Farewell Spit, rescuers managed to refloat about 100 of them but the remainder have already died. pic.twitter.com/0QkRFnpWdw
— Quad Finn (@Quad_Finn) February 9, 2017
There are various theories as to why whales strand, with reasons including old age, injury, navigational errors.
Associated Press contributed reporting.