Rescuers struggled Wednesday to free more than 100 pilot whales beached on New Zealand's South Island but at least 19 have died, officials said.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand Rescuers struggled Wednesday to free more than 100 pilot whales beached on New Zealand's South Island but at least 19 have died, officials said.
About 100 conservation workers and volunteers rushed to keep the surviving members of the pod covered with moisture, hoping the upcoming high tide will ease the animals' return to the sea.
"We've got wet sheets and blankets over them and we're pouring water over those to keep the animals wet and cool," said Department of Conservation area manager John Mason.
Conservation workers had tracked the 123-member pod of whales since it was first seen early Tuesday apparently confused and milling around near the shore.
The first whale beached itself Tuesday afternoon and the rest shortly followed suit.
German backpacker Martin Huehmergarth said he was in the Farewell Spit cafe looking at photos of whale strandings and minutes later "we were up to our hips in the sea bailing buckets of water doing it for real."
New Zealand has several mass whale strandings each summer. Whale experts have been unable to explain why the whales apparently swim into dangerously shallow waters.
Source: Associated Press