Whale calf dies after stranding alongside its mother

10:29 am on 6 August 2018

A whale calf that became stranded on a Northland beach over the weekend has died despite rescuers' efforts to refloat the whales.

The humpbacks, believed to be a mother and calf, were first seen about 100m offshore from Ripiro Beach about 7am and then found stranded about 8.30am, near Baylys Beach.

More than 100 volunteers joined Department of Conservation (DOC) and Project Jonah staff to try and help the whales, but when the high tide came they could not be floated to deeper water.

DOC Kauri Coast operations manager Stephen Soole said the whales had survived overnight, but the young one was showing signs of distress this morning.

Mr Soole said this morning as the tide goes out, a digger will dig a trench out to deeper water to make it easier to refloat the whales at high tide.

He said it would be incredibly hard to refloat the whales because of how high they were on the beach.

"There is a lot of emotion at the moment because we don't like to see these animals in distress and we've got that at the forefront of our mind," Mr Soole said.

"That's why there's so much interest to refloat them and get them back out to sea."

Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith saId it was heartbreaking to hear the mother calling to the calf.

They have a bulldozer at their disposal, as well as floating pontoons that can be used to add buoyancy to the whales, should conditions allow.