Sources from the Ministry of Conservation said that it was estimated that a total of 416 whales were beached on Thursday night in a sandy area known as Farewell Spit.
Farewell Spit which is about 150 kilometres (95 miles) west of Nelson, a tourist town, has in the past decade seen at least nine mass strandings of pilot whales, although the latest is by far the largest in number.
The long, curving spit is a very easy site for whale strandings as once whales enter the spit they find it difficult to find the way out.
Here are some heartwarming images of volunteers trying their best to save the surviving whales:
Keeping surviving whales alive
Dozens of lifeguards are working against the clock to keep the surviving whales alive until high tide comes while monitoring the situation of those that managed to refloat, the sources said. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Project Jonah New Zealand.
Third largest stranding incident in NZ
This is the largest whales stranding incident in New Zealand. In February 2015, an operation to save 200 pilot whales that were beached in the same area of Farewell Spit was carried out, but did not prevent the majority from dying. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Project Jonah New Zealand.
Why whales got stranded
The reasons why these whales have been stranded are still unknown, although the Golden Bay, which has shallow waters, is known for these kinds of incidents. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Project Jonah New Zealand.
Pilot whale with domed forehead
The pilot whale is characterised by its domed forehead and robust body that can grow to between six and seven metres long. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Project Jonah New Zealand.
Many volunteers join rescue
New Zealand volunteers formed a human chain in the water at a remote beach on Friday as they tried to save about 100 whales after more than 400 of the creatures beached themselves in one of the worst whale strandings in the nation's history. About three-quarters of the pilot whales were already dead when they were found Friday morning at Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island. Image courtesy: Facebook page of Project Jonah New Zealand.