Dozens of whales stranded in Coromandel

A pod of whales has become stranded in Coromandel.

Department of Conservation rangers and Project Jonah medics are helping locals try and free what's thought to be pilot whales.

They're stuck in shallow, muddy water in Colville Bay, a remote part of the peninsula.

"There are approximately 42 whales that have been stranded," said volunteer Justin Beckermann.

"The tide has gone out and there is quite a large group of people trying to keep the skin of the whales moist. They're currently digging moats around the whales to keep them moist."

The whales were originally part of a larger pod, many of which have now moved further out to sea after a human chain helped push them to safety.

Around 20 whales remain.

Beckermann said the water is cold and more volunteers will be needed on site to take over from those who have been there all morning.

Some of the whales avoided stranding themselves, Project Jonah said on its Facebook page. 

"It looks like there are going to be a few casualties," said Beckermann. 

Project Jonah says potential volunteers should bring a wetsuit, warm clothes, food and drink.

Massey University researchers are heading there too. Marine biology associate professor Karen Stockin says her research team is on its way to "monitor the live stranded whales, help volunteers and video the mammals behaviour".