Rescuers refloat 100 of 416 pilot whales found stranded in New Zealand; video

Dozens of volunteers answered a call for help Friday morning after it was discovered that 416 pilot whales had become stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay at the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand.

Only 100 pilot whales survived and, with the help of 70 to 80 volunteers, were refloated at high tide Friday morning, but officials were concerned they might become beached again, according to the New Zealand Herald and Radio New Zealand.

Department of Conservation Golden Bay operations manager Andrew Lamason told the Herald the pilot whales appeared to be swimming the wrong direction and were headed back into the bay.

"Rescuers had fingers crossed they would still turn around on the high tide but were preparing for the worst," the Herald wrote. "Lamason said they would not have another chance to refloat the whales until tomorrow’s high tide as it was too dangerous to try a rescue at night."

The Herald also reported that hundreds of people responded to the call for help, causing a traffic jam on the road to the beach in the remote area.

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It is the third-largest whale stranding in New Zealand history. The largest came in 1918 when 1,000 pilot whales were stranded. The second-largest was in 1985 on Great Barrier Island where 450 pilot whales were beached.

Lamason told NewsHub that Golden Bay is “almost a perfect trap for whales” because of its geography. The whales swim into the shallow, hook-shaped bay, become disoriented and fail to find a way out before low tide.