The surviving pilot whales from a stranding on Farewell Spit appear to have been successfully refloated.
A land and air search at first light this morning found no sign of the whales which were in a pod of about 200 which came ashore in Golden Bay on Friday.
About 60 whales are thought to have made it back to sea.
The Department of Conservation says the stranding was the worst in 15 years, with more than half of the whales dying despite frantic efforts to refloat them.
Hundreds of volunteers went to the isolated spot to help keep the whales wet and calm while attempts were made to get them back into deeper water.
"There's enough water to keep us all going," Takaka DOC ranger Mike Ogle said last night.
"We've got a few stragglers at the back but we've got big teams on them so they are managing to move those last big ones...it's pretty optimistic that we've finally got them all together and floating, it's looking pretty good."
Fifty whales beached in the same area a year ago.