The couple who were the first to find the stranded and dying sperm whales at a South Taranaki beach couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Twelve sperm whales have now been found dead at Kaupokonui Beach in South Taranaki since Thursday morning.
Laurence Mosen manages the Kaupokonui Beach Camp with his wife Sue Mosen.
He was shocked by the sight of the whales while out walking their elderly dog.
""Bit of a shock actually … never even seen one before and to see something like that.
"The first one I saw, I didn't know what the hell it was and then I saw its tail moving.
"It was just in the surf flipping its tail around. It was dead, and so were the rest."
He went back to the camp to tell his wife and call the Department of Conservation.
"He'd come back ... we run an old dog at the beach ... he said there was a whale stranded at the beach and I thought he was having me on," Sue Mosen said.
"First time I've seen that. It's a very emotional thing and I'm not an emotional person. That is a very moving sight when you see a big thing like that up close."
Three of the whales were being prepared for burial by local hapu Ngati Tu and Department of Conservaion rangers.
Laurence Mosen said DoC staff were taking the jaws off some of the whales before burial.
He said the two whales closest to the camp were being buried first and there were some that would have to be left there.
"Then there's three further up the beach, they're going up to bury those ones. The rest have to let nature take its course … can't get the diggers to them.
"You've got to get across the river and climb all over builders. It's not possible really."
The Mosens said there was an intense smell in the area because of the decomposing whales.
Sue Mosen also said there had been members of the public trying to steal pieces from the whales.
"That's why we've got high security here now," she said.
"There's a security company here .. we've got Maori wardens here ... not just one or two, there's lots."
A spokesman at the Department of Conservation, Des Williams, said samples were taken from the whales last week to learn more about what happened to them.
But he said it would likely be some days before any results came back.
It was hoped at least three of the whales would have been buried yesterday.