Our team jumped into action to assist DOC and Project Jonah with the stranding of 48 Pilot Whales on Farewell Spit on the 22nd and 23rd of February. Project Jonah trained a group of us as Marine Medics after the mass whale stranding at Farewell Spit in 2017 and we keep stranding supplies (buckets, old sheets, wetsuits) with us here at HealthPost. The pilot whales strand in our HealthPost Nature Trust project area and it makes sense that we’re on call in the event of a stranding.
This time, we were able to offer our newly renovated Te Whare Whakatā, an historic cottage at the base of Farewell Spit, as the whale rescue HQ. Te Whare Whakatā is the HealthPost Nature Trust field station where this summer new research on paper wasps and their impact of endemic insect life has been taking place. (The fascinating findings, including a possible natural control method, will be shared shortly!) The Whare is available for ecological research and education, conservation efforts and cultural activities. We plan to make it the best possible base for future whale rescue efforts and to train more of our team as Marine Medics with the wonderful Project Jonah.
Te Whare Whakatā, a name gifted by Manawhenua ki Mohua, means ‘ House of Rest’. And it was certainly well-earned rest for the tireless team who worked incredibly hard over two days to successfully refloat 28 of the stranded whales. Personally, I found being involved in the rescue effort and bonding with the whales very moving and rewarding, despite the heartbreaking losses. These gentle and sensitive creatures stayed largely calm throughout what must have been an excruciating experience, and seeing them socialising and reconnecting when they were refloated is something I won’t forget. We take our hats off to DOC, Project Jonah and all the volunteers for their dedication. It meant a lot to us to be able to help.