TODAY |

'They're heading in the right direction' - optimism whales may finally be heading out to deep water

More whales beached themselves at Golden Bay overnight. Our crews have been in the area bringing you the latest on day three of the stranded whales rescue mission.

4.25pm:

The pod of whales may finally be heading towards the safety of deep water in the Cook Strait.

These volunteers are doing all they can to keep the whale wet, but the tide is coming in. Source: 1 NEWS

Project Jonah co-ordinator Mark Rigby said the whales are currently swimming about four kilometres offshore, heading towards Separation Point.

This was one moving moment. Selfless volunteers at Golden Bay got together in solidarity to try to stop a pod at sea from coming back in. Source: 1 NEWS

"They're heading in the right direction," he said. "We're slowly but surely getting out of danger."

If the whales continue the way they're going, they should reach the Cook Strait and finally be free of the bay that has resulted in the loss of so many of their pod.

Mr Rigby said while the chances where looking good, there was still a possibility the whales could re-strand, and that their safety couldn't be guaranteed until they are out of the bay.

Seventeen whales stranded at Golden Bay overnight and these selfless helpers are doing what they can to save them, but they need help. Source: 1 NEWS

The 17 whales that 1 NEWS filmed being rescued this morning have safely joined the rest of the pod.

"They're all together," Mr Rigby said. "They're in the right spot."

The news came as a welcome relief for the team of exhausted volunteers, many of whom have spent three days straight on the rescue effort.

Project Jonah co-ordinator Louisa Hawkes told volunteers it was okay to feel emotionally exhausted at the end of a stranding.

"The standing might be winding down but the emotions are still quite close to the surface," she said.

"There has been some really really hard moments, particularly yesterday," she told the group as she herself teared up. "It's all right to feel, and at a stranding its full of emotion."

She urged the volunteers to talk to others about their experiences.

"Go home to your friends and family, tell them about what you've done," she said.
 

11.50am:

The rising tide has lifted all 17 stranded whales from the sand.

They are all now floating in the shallow water, able to swim and move around.

Volunteers have formed a human chain in the water to stop them from returning to the shallows.

Cheers erupted from the volunteers as the whales took off out towards deeper water.

11.00am:

A baby whale has been the first to refloat from the group of 17 stranded whales near Farewell Spit.

The tide is rising, slowly covering the whales in more water.

The baby whale is the lightest of the group so was the first to be lifted by the water.

She swam around in the shallow water as volunteers cheered.

Then, alarmingly she started to head closer in to shore.

Volunteers started to head towards her in an effort to turn her around.

But a Project Jonah leader called out not to stop her as she was looking for her mother.

The baby whale darted around in the water looking for her mother.

She has now found a mother whale and is staying by her side.

A Project Jonah volunteer said they couldn't tell if it was her mother, but said it was a "mother or an aunty from the pod."

10.45am:

Water is rising fast around the 17 whales that were stranded overnight.

Volunteers at scene are asking people who are going out to bring buckets and water for drinking.

9.50am:

In good news, almost all the 180 whales who rescuers worked to save yesterday evening made it made it back into the water overnight.

Whales stranded near roadside at Golden Bay.
Whales stranded near roadside at Golden Bay. Source: 1 NEWS

These guys worked desperately to flip the whale onto its belly. They succeeded, but then it rolled back onto its side. Source: 1 NEWS

About 4pm yesterday, news broke that four groups of whales had stranded at different locations along the coast near Farewell Spit.

These were not the same whales as the 416 whales who had stranded on Friday - they bore no markings that would indicate a previous stranding.

Rescuers worked till the evening to keep the whales alive, until quickly rising tides and risk of stingrays caused rescue leaders to order volunteers out of the water around 7pm.

Sadly, before the tides could come, a small number of whales had already died.

Heat, exhaustion and not being able to breathe took the lives of a few whales before the water was able to rise around them and take them back to safety.

But to the relief of rescuers, the high tide saved almost all the rest of them.

Volunteer Jennifer Rizzi rushed down on a 3.30am ferry from Wellington yesterday morning to help with the rescue.

She was at Puponga beach by the evening, keeping the whales alive until the tide could rise high enough to save them.

Hearing that almost all of the whales had refloated in the high tide was a great relief, she said.

1 NEWS reporter Will Hine looks at the science behind whale strandings. Source: 1 NEWS

"Knowing that coming down has done something is a good feeling," she said.

Despite the happy news, the concern now remains that the whales haven't travelled out into deep waters yet and are still in the bay.

This could mean that these whales may again restrand.

Earlier:

Seventeen whales became stranded at high tide in Golden Bay, with high tide bringing them right up to the roadside.

The whales are lying within metres of a road nearby.

Around 20 people are currently working to keep the whales wet using buckets and cloths.

Our reporter Emily Cooper explained that hundreds on the ground this morning slept in cars and tents, to be close to the rescue mission. Source: 1 NEWS

It follows heartbreak earlier as whales that couldn't be refloated were euthanised. Source: 1 NEWS

DOC biodiversity ranger Amanda Harvey said the 17 whales had come from a pod of around 200. They are swimming in the bay at the moment.

While it's a relief that the 200 are in the water, Ms Harvey sys "there is a real risk" of them returning and getting beached later this morning.

She says if this is the case, many more volunteers will be needed.

"It will be another barricading line of people in wetsuits to stop them coming," she said.

People wanting to volunteer should check in around 11am to see if the whales have beached.

Only those wearing wetsuits should come, Ms Palmer said, as the water will be cold today.

"If they (the whales) turn around and come in we will need lots and lots of people," she said.

A pod of 17 whales refloated at Farewell Spit this morning now appear headed towards the safety of Cook Strait. Source: 1 NEWS