Stranded pygmy sperm whale refloated

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The whale that stranded at Whanganui's South Beach this morning. Photo / Barry Head

By Anne-Marie McDonald

Barry Head went to Whanganui's South Beach this morning to test out his new quad bike - and came back with an adventure he'll remember for the rest of his life.

Around 10.30am Head drove south along the beach for about 1km, then spotted two people standing in the shallows next to an object.

"I pulled over to see what the story was, and realised it was a whale in the water."

The whale was a small one, around 3m long, possibly a pygmy sperm whale. She had a bit of blood around her mouth and a bruise on her back, but otherwise seemed in good condition, Head said.

"The breakers were very rough, and it's possible she came in too close to shore and got tumbled about by the waves," he said.

DoC staff arrived with specialist equipment to help get the whale back out to sea. With about eight other people, Head helped roll the whale onto a sheet so she could be moved into deeper water.

"She was pretty heavy all right."

Eventually the whale swam out into the waves.

"We watched her do a big circle in the water and swim straight back in to restrand," Head said.

Barry Head said the rescue experience was "really fulfilling".
"When I first got there I thought she wouldn't survive. It was so neat to see her swim off into the water."
Barry Head said the rescue experience was "really fulfilling". "When I first got there I thought she wouldn't survive. It was so neat to see her swim off into the water."

After another couple of attempts the whale was seen heading out to sea and disappeared from view. Head said he carried on down the beach, keeping an eye out for the whale, but didn't see her again.

The rescue took about 45 minutes in total.

He said the experience was "really fulfilling".

"When I first got there I thought she wouldn't survive. It was so neat to see her swim off into the water.

"You see whale strandings on telly, but I'd never been involved in anything like this before," Head said.

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