Sixty pilot whales that beached themselves off the coast of New Zealand for a second time appear to have made it into safe water, officials reported Sunday.
They were the lucky ones — about 140 others died in the mass beachings that started on Friday, the Associated Press reported.
A pod of 198 pilot whales were found Friday stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay on New Zealand's South Island, a famous spot for whale beachings, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
Hundreds of volunteers raced to the scene with buckets, spades, and old sheets to keep the surviving whales cool and wet while they waited for high tide to re-float the pod.
Stranded whales have a better chance of surviving when it's overcast or rainy, but on Friday, volunteers worked under dry, sunny conditions, the New Zealand Herald reported.
"This is a big stranding. It's a real challenge," Andrew Lamason, a spokesman for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, told the Herald.
The overnight effort on Friday was initially successful, but as the tide receded, the whales restranded.
On Saturday morning, local time, volunteers worked to keep the 60 survivors alive in anticipation of the next high tide.
Staff and volunteers with Project Jonah and the public watered the whales down and kept them covered as they waited for the next high tide.
When it came, they used pontoons and slings to take them into deeper water, which appeared to work. On Sunday, Department of Conservation officials said in a statement that the spotters on the beach, as well as a fixed wing airplane, could find no sign of the whales, indicating that that they had left Golden Bay.
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jason Wells at email@example.com.
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