A bid to save two humpback whales stranded on a Northland beach has been suspended but will resume Monday morning.

A community rescue effort got underway today to free the whales which stranded on Baylys Beach, on Northland's rugged west coast, early this morning.

Hundreds of residents and whale rescue volunteers turned out in their droves to brave a rugged cold surf in an attempt to refloat the stricken mammals.

But attempts to free the animals on the high tide were unsuccessful and the rescue bid was suspended overnight once the whales have been reassessed.

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The whales are understood to have been first sighted about 8am today and the Department Of Conservation Kauri Coast Office was co-ordinating the rescue effort with Project Jonah.

Concerned locals appeared at the beach to watch the giant creatures and assist in the rescue effort. DOC Kauri Coast ranger Manu Kareko said he was proud to be part of such a helpful community.

Rescuers try to free two humpback whales that stranded on Baylys Beach, on Northland's west coast near Dargaville, this morning.
Rescuers try to free two humpback whales that stranded on Baylys Beach, on Northland's west coast near Dargaville, this morning.

"It's been amazing the amount of support from the local community."Kareko was being support by his wife and both agreed it was a magnificent sight to behold.

"It makes you feel pretty insignificant, standing next to something this big. I've only ever been involved in one other situation like this and it was to try and remove two pygmy sperm whales, which were already deceased."

"These whales though, they're alive and they're just really massive."

His wife Kerryn said she had been talking to an old guy who grew up here.

"He said it was the first time he'd ever heard of such a stranding. I just hope that we can move them."