An orca whale that stranded on Papamoa Beach early yesterday morning was refloated after a massive rescue attempt by locals and marine experts.
The adult male whale – nicknamed Nobby – was last seen swimming towards Taumaihi Island, apparently none the worse for his 10-hour ordeal.
“I was in the water with him and he was swimming especially strongly,” said orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser, who jumped into a surf boat and followed Nobby for about 15 minutes as he made his way out to sea.
Nobby was spotted by fishermen shortly before 6am yesterday. A team of people, including Visser, Project Jonah and Department of Conservation staff, spent the morning trying to refloat him.
A digger was used to remove sand from around the whale, while volunteers poured water on him and gave him fresh water. More than a thousand people flocked to Papamoa Beach to watch the rescue mission unfold.
Visser said Nobby, who is well-known among New Zealand marine experts, was probably chasing a stingray in shallow waters when he became stranded.
“He was probably so focused on the ray that he just made a mistake. Once we managed to get him turned around and pointed out to the ocean he was very keen to swim away.”
Visser is keen to keep track of Nobby and is urging anyone who spots a whale to ring 0800 SEE ORCA.
“We can follow him that way and see where he goes.”