Whales are stranded at Farewell Spit near Nelson, New Zealand Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. 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. (Tim Cuff/New Zealand Herald via AP)
PHOTO: Tim Cuff/AP
Whales are stranded at Farewell Spit near Nelson, New Zealand Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. 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. (Tim Cuff/New Zealand Herald via AP)
Now playing
00:45
Footage shows hundreds of stranded whales
EEL
PHOTO: EV Nautilus
EEL
Now playing
00:56
Watch eel change shape right before your eyes
PHOTO: KABB
Now playing
01:08
Stolen shark returned to San Antonio aquarium
mauritius marine conservation _00005617.jpg
mauritius marine conservation _00005617.jpg
Now playing
02:40
Monitoring dolphins in Mauritius
Three members from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Marine Animal Release Team cut the whale free from shark net
PHOTO: Nine News
Three members from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Marine Animal Release Team cut the whale free from shark net
Now playing
00:47
Australian rescuers free whale from shark net
Female orca Wikie swims with her calf born by artificial insemination on April 19, 2011 at Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France.
PHOTO: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Female orca Wikie swims with her calf born by artificial insemination on April 19, 2011 at Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France.
Now playing
01:24
Killer whale mimics human speech
400 pound fish caught with wrench pkg_00002609.jpg
PHOTO: WFTS
400 pound fish caught with wrench pkg_00002609.jpg
Now playing
01:24
Man catches 400-pound fish with a wrench
large great white shark caught fisherman pkg_00004514.jpg
PHOTO: WJCL
large great white shark caught fisherman pkg_00004514.jpg
Now playing
01:48
Fisherman: I caught a 2,500-pound shark with rod, reel
Millions of sea creatures pyrosomes washing up on oregon coast orig_00000000.jpg
Millions of sea creatures pyrosomes washing up on oregon coast orig_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:02
Millions of creatures swarm Oregon Coast
Ghostly octopod casper discovery orig vstop dlewis_00000000.jpg
PHOTO: NOAA
Ghostly octopod casper discovery orig vstop dlewis_00000000.jpg
Now playing
00:48
Unknown 'ghostly' octopod discovered
rare seahorse found in california pkg_00010912.jpg
PHOTO: KCBS
rare seahorse found in california pkg_00010912.jpg
Now playing
01:24
Rare sea creature spotted in California waters
PHOTO: Sergey Sverdlov
Now playing
00:54
Close call with shark caught on camera
australia shark 10 foot 3 meter shark queensland pkg atkinson_00001612.jpg
australia shark 10 foot 3 meter shark queensland pkg atkinson_00001612.jpg
Now playing
01:30
10-foot shark caught near surfers in Australia
PHOTO: WPEC
Now playing
01:01
Thousands of sharks migrating off the Florida coast
endangered right whales spotted sebastian inlet florida _00002920.jpg
PHOTO: WESH
endangered right whales spotted sebastian inlet florida _00002920.jpg
Now playing
01:25
Rare endangered whales spotted in Florida inlet
PHOTO: Glenys Howse
Now playing
00:57
Rare 'walking' fish found
Taningia danae whiplash squid vstan orig jnd pkg_00000707.jpg
PHOTO: NOAA
Taningia danae whiplash squid vstan orig jnd pkg_00000707.jpg
Now playing
00:59
Rare deep-sea squid caught on camera
(CNN) —  

Desperate efforts are underway to save dozens of pilot whales still alive after hundreds stranded themselves on a New Zealand beach, in the third largest mass stranding in the country’s history.

At least 250 whales were already dead of 400 found beached on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on the tip of the South Island Friday, the Department of Conservation said in a statement.

Rescuers attempted to refloat more than 100 whales mid-morning, of which about 50 returned to sea.

However, another 80 to 90 whales who were freed re-stranded themselves in the same place just five hours later, Inwood said.

Hundreds of volunteers have come out to help the pilot whiles, pictured here at high tide.
PHOTO: Deb Price
Hundreds of volunteers have come out to help the pilot whiles, pictured here at high tide.

Hundreds of locals turned out to help keep the whales cool.

Volunteers swoop on site

“There’s like two to three hundred car loads of people who have come to help, maybe three to four hundred people,” Department of Conservation Community Ranger Kath Inwood told CNN.

According to Inwood, the area regularly saw beached whales and many residents were already trained in keeping the animals comfortable and helping to refloat them.

“Lots of people will be there pretty quick and already have the knowledge and training to help effectively,” she said.

Work will stop overnight for the safety of volunteers, who could be in danger around the large, stressed animals.

More than 400 pilot whales stranded themselves on a New Zealand beach on the evening of Thursday February 9.
PHOTO: Deb Price
More than 400 pilot whales stranded themselves on a New Zealand beach on the evening of Thursday February 9.

’This is a huge one’

The whales were first spotted in the water late on Thursday night, by a department staffer, before being found on Farewell Spit on Friday morning.

“Normally (they) are between November and March and it’s not many years we don’t have one. (But) obviously this is a huge one compared to most years … mostly they’re in ones and twos,” she said.

The largest whale stranding in New Zealand took place in 1918, when 1,000 whales stranded themselves on Chatham Islands.

The second largest was in Auckland in 1985, when 450 ended up on a beach.

“You don’t usually get this many traveling at once, we have 180 once before but I think a lot of (answers as to why) are unknown really,” Inwood said. “There’s a lot of different theories.”