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Pilot Whales Saved After Mass Beaching

February 14, 1996

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ More than 80 volunteer workers refloated a pod of 28 pilot whales today after the mammals were stranded for more than 12 hours on a beach.

Using wet blankets, buckets and even cups, teams of four and five rescuers labored, carrying water for the entire day to protect the stranded whales from the hot sun.

The 80-strong rescue team saw six of the whales die on the beach at Farewell Spit on North Island, but the rest of the pod was floated from the sandy beach on the evening’s high tide and guided to deeper water.

The whales, including calves less than six feet long and adults up to 20 feet in length, were spotted on the beach by a tourist early today, apparently caught in the shallow waters when the tide retreated.

Geoff Rennison, field manager for the Department of Conservation, said the pilot whales were stranded on the spit near the small settlement of Puponga, in Golden Bay.

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