Beachgoers came together to help a pod of whales stranded on a Georgia beach earlier this week. A video of the massive rescue effort, which shows them helping some 20 pilot whales washed ashore near St. Simons Island’s East Beach, is viral and winning hearts online.
Dixie McCoy, who witnessed the dramatic rescue, went live on Facebook to capture their efforts. Without waiting for officials, these good samaritans plunged into action to help the whales return to deep sea.
Watch the beaching and rescue here:
“As we arrived at the beach, we noticed a group of people in the water. At first, we thought they had dolphins doing some sort of show,” McCoy told CNN. “As we got closer, we couldn’t believe what we saw.”
“It was so sad to see so many whales on the beach,” she continued. “Everyone was trying so hard to get them back in the water. ”
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Personnel from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Division, DNR Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Glynn County Emergency Management and others soon reached the spot and led the efforts.
“While stranding is a known natural occurrence, the only thing we can do is to continue pushing them out to sea,” DNR senior wildlife Clay George said.
Among cetaceans—the order of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises—pilot whales are the most common species known to strand in mass numbers, according to Georgia DNR.
Thanks to the volunteers and first responders, the majority of whales made it back to the water, however, it left three of them dead.
“Brunswick boat pilots spotted the whales Wednesday morning. As of that afternoon, the pod had moved farther off-shore. It was monitored by the National Marine Mammal Foundation, a partner with DNR in dolphin research. DNR also checked area beaches, marshes and waterways by helicopter but no other stranded animals were found,” the agency informed people in it’s update the following morning.