About fifty flying whales have drifted near the Farewell Spit, the world’s tallest natural sandy area, located northwest of South Island, New Zealand.
Nine whales have already died despite attempts to save them and work is underway to try to keep the others alive.
Before dark, the Environment Ministry announced that it will wait for high tides to try to return 40 whales currently stranded in sand to deeper waters.
Meanwhile, environmental workers and about 60 volunteers are trying to keep themselves hydrated: they throw buckets of water and wet blankets at them while waiting to drive out the pilot whales.
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In Farewell Spit, a 34-kilometer-long sandy area, the northernmost point of the South Island, 700 whales stranded in 2017, and 250 of them failed to survive.
Scientists have not yet been able to understand why whales sometimes diverge from their paths and strand in shallow water. One hypothesis is that they lose their bearings, are confused by noise pollution or are led by a confused group leader. Other scholars believe that it is due to a lack of food.
The largest stranding of whales ever recorded was that of the Chatham Islands, some 800 kilometers off the southeast coast of New Zealand, in 1918: in this case there were a thousand flying whales (“Globicephala melas”) who lost their way and ran ashore.
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