New Zealand Beach Closed Amid Fears of Hundreds of "Exploding Whales"

16 February, 2017, 01:25 | Author: Sam Montgomery

Christophers said everyone is hoping the strandings are finally over, although he said it's possible some of the whales will return to the beach and strand themselves again.

Last week, more than 400 whales arrived on the 5km-long (three mile-long) stretch next to Golden Bay, in one of the worst beaching incidents in New Zealand's history.

As a result, the Department of Conservation closed the beach, saying in a statement, "The area is now closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding".

Department of Conservation spokesman Andrew Lamason said they were sure they were dealing with a separate pod because they had tagged all the refloated whales from the first group and none of the new group had tags.

But over the following days, hundreds more whales from a different pod also became stranded.

Conservation workers in New Zealand have been "popping" pilot whales "like balloons" to stop their carcasses exploding.

The crisis began Friday when a pod of 416 whales beached themselves on the spit.

In one of New Zealand's largest mass whale beachings, over 240 pilot whales were saved by the coming tide.

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Officials will soon need to dispose of hundreds of carcasses.

"This morning, we'll be getting people down there basically poking holes in them, letting the gas out of them".

The surviving whales were last seen swimming six kilometres (four miles) offshore on Sunday evening, according to DOC. In February 2015, about 190 whales were stranded on the beach there.

The shallow seabed surrounding the spit is believed to interfere with the whales' sonar navigation systems and regularly sees mass strandings.

In this case, it might have also been simply the wrong place at the wrong time for the unfortunate animals, with experts noting that Farewell Spit is a particularly hard place for whales to navigate, as the sand banks reflect sonar poorly.

About 300 whales will be moved with a digger and buried in the sand dunes further up Farewell Spit, South Island.

The agency is now trying to figure out what to do with the carcasses of the dead whales.

Popular Science explains that, as bodies decompose and bacteria break down flesh, they release gases.

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