This was my first time attending a whale stranding. I did the PJ course in Nelson just over two years ago, and had just done the online refresher course the week before this stranding which was fortuitous - all the info was fresh in my head!
Once I got the text I just dropped everything and drove to Farewell Spit. It took me about 4 hours to drive there so by the time I arrived, got into my wetsuit and onto the beach it was about 5pm. The tide was incoming and around knee deep. I wasn’t sure what to do once in the sea but I was waved over to a whale by a woman in a PJ vest and a couple others without. I hung out with her for the rest of the evening while in the water with the whales and she was really helpful. I recall the relief speaking to a few others and realising I wasn’t the only newbie on site. I cant actually recall what happened but at one stage something did - a guy in a PJ vest, with an awesome smiley face, came over to me and said are you ok? and then gave me a really big hug..I found out later on that he was 'barekiwi' and his kindness in giving me that hug was perfect and wonderful and gave me loads of confidence to carry on :)
Next morning I was up bright and early and back into the water. I felt ready for whatever the day was to bring and was ready to eventually help coax/guide those beautiful creatures back out into the water. The whales were playing with us and swimming close to shore, looking like they were going to restrand. It was just THE most amazing feeling to stand back and be part of the human chain, physically and mentally willing them to go out into the deeper water and then seeing them doing so was absolutely thrilling and exhilarating! It was hard work though and at times it really pushed me, however I just had to refocus and bring myself back to the task at hand, not the feelings within myself. I was in awe of what everyone was doing to help the whales and how everyone was looking out for everyone else. The whales were slowly but surely getting further out into deeper water.
Phew and YAY!
I guess for me, the whole experience was a little like I was pinching myself that I was actually there. It was almost a surreal experience but one I am definitely grateful for having the opportunity to have done. It was a huge privilege to be there, amongst those amazing creatures, and likeminded people.
I came home on a high and felt very buzzy for days. I kept looking for pictures and videos online and looking at them over and over. Describing my experiences to my family and friends, many expressed their sadness...I had to reply "yes but we saved 28 whales that would’ve died if we hadn’t helped them and that’s wonderful!"