The NZ Department of Conservation hopes a pod of pilot whales at risk of beaching near Nelson has headed back out to sea.
DoC spokeswoman Trish Grant said 13 whales had died after beaching themselves near Farewell Spit in Golden Bay sometime on Tuesday night.
Another whale had died later at sea, possibly because of distress after being stranded.
DoC had been concerned that the pod of about 20 whales would strand because they were milling around close to the shore, Ms Grant said. Staff and volunteers monitored the whales in a boat until the conditions became too rough.
The whales were last seen about 4.30pm several kilometres from shore in 8m of water, which was a good sign, she said.
“We’re hoping they will make their own way out to sea.
“They were in fairly deep water when last seen so it’s a good chance that they are just going to make their way back out to sea.
“But nothing is certain really and we’re just kind of ready to respond depending on what happens next.”
Somebody was watching on shore where they were last seen in case they headed there, Ms Grant said.
If they went close to the shore in another part of Golden Bay DoC would rely on the public to report it, she said.
An aircraft would check this morning to see if any whales were around and if any had beached overnight.
The whales were 4m to 6m long.
About two years ago 129 whales stranded in the same area and 25 of them died.