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With Whale Rescue Team members flying in by helicopter we were able to assess the situation by air and it was clear that many of the pilot whales were beyond saving.  Rolling around in the powerful surf many had already succumbed to the conditions.  However, with only limited number of volunteers on hand every effort was made to rescue as many as we could.  Working closely with the Far North Whale Rescue group as well as local Iwi and Department of Conservation the initial volunteers moved the whales out of the surf and up the steep and soft-sand beach.  Once more volunteers arrived we were able to move the whale higher onto the beach and into a more secure area.  However, it was clear that the surf conditions precluded any immediate release at this location.  The weather forecast was for continued surf and increasing winds.
With a fresh water lagoon nearby it was decided to move the whales into the safety which would also allow the whales to be supported by water and help prevent them from being overheated.  Held overnight, the whales remained calm and did not attempt to swim away once a ‘whale marina’ had been scooped out of the side of the shallow lagoon.


The following morning the whales were once again lifted out of the water and this time placed on trucks.  Given the extreme shortage of mats and only one lifting frame this process took many hours and the hot sun and strong winds played havoc with the sensitive skin of the pilot whales.  Travelling with a police escort the trucks filled with whales headed down narrow dirt roads until reaching the main road and heading towards the release site.

Upon release the whales and volunteers alike were exhausted.  Unfortunately two whales died within meters of the sea, but the others were successfully lowered into the cooling and refreshing waters.  However, the ordeal was far from over, with a few whales released before they had fully regained their balance and this resulted in at least five attempting to restrand.  Eventually four were successfully taken out to sea but one had to be shot on the beach.  Overall, given the extreme conditions it was only through the determination of everyone involved that it was possible to save so many.

Rescue Images
Quick Facts

Name Pilot whale, long-finned
Image
Pilot whale, long-finned
Suborder Odontoceti
Family Delphinidae
Max. size - Male 6.7 m (21.9 ft)
Max. size - Female 5.7 m (18.7 ft)
Calf size 1.7-1.8 m (5.5-5.9 ft)
Max. weight - Male 2,300 kg
Max. weight - Female 1,300 kg
Calf weight 75 kg
Food primary food is squid, but known to take fish
Latin name Globicephala melas
Location Spirits Bay, Far North
Latitude -34.45274
Longitude 172.81142
At this rescue

Dr. Ingrid N. Visser – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Dr. Ingrid N. Visser – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Ingrid has attended numerous mass and individual strandings.  She is experienced in sampling and data collection at these events, and in the use of refloatation Rescue Pontoons and other rescue equipment.  She has served on the Board and was a trainer for another stranding rescue group.

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Jo (Floppy) Halliday – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Jo (Floppy) Halliday – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Floppy has attended multiple mass and individual strandings.  She is experienced in the use of refloatation Rescue Pontoons and other rescue equipment.  Floppy has served on the Board of another stranding rescue group where she was also a trainer and area coordinator.

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Jochen (John) Zaeschmar

Jochen (John) Zaeschmar

John has attended several mass strandings and is trained in stranding rescue techniques, including the use of refloatation Rescue Pontoons and other whale rescue equipment.

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Wendy Turner

Wendy Turner

Wendy has attended multiple mass and individual strandings and is trained in stranding rescue techniques, including the use of refloatation Rescue Pontoons and other whale rescue equipment.

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With special thanks to

To Department of Conservation staff who worked  diligently in trying conditions and yet were willing to try a variety of methods to save these whales, we extend a heart-felt thanks.
To Grant Harnish of Salt Air who dropped everything to ready a helicopter to transport the Whale Rescue team directly to Spirits Bay we can’t say thanks enough for your support.

Location of Rescue

Help Us

Whale Rescue is a volunteer organisation, run by volunteers. There are lots of different ways that you can help us to continue rescuing whales and dolphins.

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