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New Zealand volunteers refloat 28 stranded whales

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand volunteers are confident they can save the remaining 28 whales from a massive stranding after they were floated on Tuesday for the second time in two days.

A pod of 49 pilot whales was found beached early Monday at Farewell Spit, a distant beach on the South Island. Of those, 21 specimens have died.

At first, the volunteers managed to get them to float again at high tide on Monday afternoon. But during the night, the whales were again stranded on the beach. So the volunteers raised them again on Tuesday.

Louisa Hawkes, a spokeswoman for a nonprofit whale rescue group, Project Jonah, said the whales had gone deeper than the first attempt, giving them more hope.

“They have gone much further than yesterday,” he commented. “We are cautiously optimistic that they will not return,” he added.

Hawkes said it is common for pilot whales to re-run aground once or twice before they return to sea.

Up to 200 volunteers helped the whales stay healthy and calm while stranded.

Under the guidance of Project Jonah and Department of Conservation rangers, the volunteers doused the whales with buckets of water and kept them from lying down to make sure they didn’t put too much pressure on their fins.

After refloating the whales, the volunteers formed human chains in the water to try to prevent them from swimming back to shore.