New Zealand whale stranding: 145 pilot whales were found beached on Saturday.
A travel blogger who came across the heartbreaking sight of 145 whales stranded on a remote beach has described it as "the worst night of my entire life."
Liz Carlson, the woman behind the Young Adventuress travel blog, detailed her experience of coming across the beached whales and her attempts to help them in a moving Instagram post. According to New Zealand Herald, Liz was on a five-day hike on the remote Stewart Island beach of New Zealand with a friend when she came across the pilot whales stranded on Mason Bay.
"We were wandering back to our camp at at sunset and came across hundreds of pilot whales becoming beached in the low surf," she wrote.
"When we realized the horror of what we were seeing, we dropped everything and ran straight into the water."
Liz and her friend, Julian Ripoll, tried desperately to drag the whales back into the sea – but in vain. "It was useless – they were so big and heavy and the realization we could do nothing to save them was the worst feeling I've ever experienced."
"We were in a place with no people, no service, no help."
Liz writes that her friend Julian ran about 15km for help to a base where Department of Conservation workers were stationed, while she stayed with the whales and kept trying to drag them into water.
"I'll never forget their cries, the way they watched me as I sat with them in the water, how they desperately tried to swim but their weight only dug them deeper into the sands," she said in her heartbreaking post.
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Saturday night was the worst night of my entire life. 50kms into a 5 day tramp on the remote west coast of Stewart Island, we were wandering back to our camp at at sunset and came across hundreds of pilot whales becoming beached in the low surf. When we realized the horror of what we were seeing, we dropped everything and ran straight into the water. Desperately we grabbed their tails and pushed and yelled, before we got hammered by them thrashing around. It was useless – they were so big and heavy and the realization we could do nothing to save them was the worst feeling I've ever experienced. We were in a place with no people, no service, no help. @ju_riviera was a champion and took off running at 8:30pm in his wet sandy clothes and boots almost 15 kilometers back to a base hut up the bay where we knew there were DOC rangers working who would have a radio. He made it in 1.5 hours to raise the alarm, and I stayed with the whales til dark, sitting with them, dragging the smallest baby back in the water every few minutes before it would rebeach itself, and throwing water over the drier whales until my hands were numb from the water and wind. I'll never forget their cries, the way they watched me as I sat with them in the water, how they desperately tried to swim but their weight only dug them deeper into the sands. My heart completely broke. When the realization there was no hope, it was almost dark, high tide was in the middle of the night and knowing this was one of the most remote places in New Zealand, I knew they would inevitable die. I sank to my knees in the sand screaming in frustration and crying, with the sound of dozens of dying whales behind me, utterly alone. It would take close to 1000 people to save them, more than double the whole population of Rakiura. The only positive bit was thanks to us alerting everyone, they were able to euthanize them shortly afterwards, and my heart hurts for the man who had that horrific job, and would have done anything to save them too. Otherwise it would have likely been days before anyone even knew the whales were there and a very long painful slow death for them all. I'll never be the same after this.
A post shared by Liz CarlsonYoung Adventuress (@youngadventuress) on
According to BBC, Julian returned a few hours later with a group of rangers, who decided to wait till morning in the hopes that the whales would make it back to the ocean with the tide.
The next morning, however, the situation was worse, with many whales lying in pain in the sun.
So the rangers had to make what they called the "heart-breaking" decision to euthanise the remaining whales.
"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise," the Department of Conservation said in a statement.
It is not clear what led to the beaching, but according to DOC, possible factors include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather
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