Elation has turned to bitter disappointment for volunteers after the whale they spent hours getting back into the ocean re-stranded this afternoon.
The 8m beaked whale was first found stranded on Omaui Beach, between Invercargill and Bluff in Southland, late last night.
Initial efforts to re-float the mammal were unsuccessful, but this morning Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and about 20 local volunteers managed to get it back into the water on the high tide.
"They had placed sandbags on one side of the whale to stop it being pushed up the beach and then they held it as well as they could in place ... and then the whale did move slowly off the beach," said Daren Grover, general manager for marine mammal welfare charity Project Jonah.
Several other beaked whales were seen out in the water waiting for their friend.
Mr Grover said volunteers were "over the moon" when the whale appeared to swim out to its pod, but a short time later it got stranded again nearby.
It was yet to be decided whether further efforts would be made to re-float it or whether to let nature take its course.
DOC staff were on their way to the scene.