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Hundreds Of Whales Stranded At Farewell Spit Overnight

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Rescuers in New Zealand were faced with a grim discovery on Saturday as hundreds more pilot whales became stranded, bringing the total number to more than 650 in less than a week.

"But in spite of best efforts by everyone to prevent further losses, the large pod of approximately 200 pilot whales that were free-swimming, have stranded", DOC spokesman Herb Christophers said. "DOC staff and volunteers re-floated about 100 on this morning's high tide but unfortunately 50 of them have since re-stranded", Ms Barry says.

One more recent theory as to why some mass strandings happen, put forward by NASA, is that solar storms might trigger strandings by interfering with terrestrial magnetic fields that whales depend on for navigation.

The pilot whales beached on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on the South Island.

Volunteers try to guide some stranded pilot whales back out to sea.

"What they're doing is milling around so we won't know until mid-afternoon whether we're going to have a restranding or not", Andrew Lamason, DOC Golden Bay operations manager, said as cited by Stuff.

Lamason said about 100 surviving whales from the initial group were refloated.

According to Reuters, by the time volunteers reached the scene, 300 whales had already perished.

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Volunteers are being called out again to try to keep the whales alive until an attempt to refloat them at high tide.

The dark-coloured carcasses were strewn along the beach, majority at the high-tide mark.

The whales beached at low tide, three kilometres from where the first group had died Friday.

About 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985.

If necessary, a second attempt to refloat the stranded whales will take place on Saturday.

The tragedy is the third largest beaching in the country's history, but the bay has seen at least nine mass beachings in the past decade alone. It is in this situation that 240 more whales were found stranded in the same area earlier today, posing more challenges for the rescue team.

Farewell Spit's geography has made it a common place for whale strandings - its long protruding coastline and sloping beaches seem to make it hard for the whales to find their way. The American Cetacean Society stated, "There are likely to be nearly a million long-finned pilot whales and at least 200,000 short-finned pilot whales worldwide".

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