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Rare sight: Dozens rush to help beached whales on St. Simons Island

Georgia Wildlife Resources Division says 3 whales did not survive

More than 2 dozen pilot whales being assisted by beach-goers, trying to swim back into the ocean.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The remains of several dead whales drew large crowds to the St. Simons Island shoreline Wednesday morning, a day after a viral video captured a massive rescue effort for about 25 pilot whales.

The video, which was shared on News4Jax's Facebook page, shows the more than two dozen whales that had beached themselves along the shore. People who saw what happened all got together and helped get the whales back in the water.

“They stuck with it until the pilot boat actually came and kind of intervened to push the pod off past the pier because they were afraid the whole pod would try to beach again to stick with the one that was sick,” St. Simons Island resident Terri Taylor said, describing the rescue effort.

The video was posted by Dixie McCoy. Numerous News4Jax viewers shared the video. 

"It is so sad. Oh my God. They're going to die if they don't get help," McCoy is heard saying. "We need angels out here today."

Beached Whales East Beach SSI, GA

East beach St. Simons Island, GA

Posted by Dixie V. McCoy on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Wildlife Resources Division from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said most of the whales were successfully pushed back out into the water but three of the whales did not survive.

“I think I saw a once in a lifetime occurrence yesterday when the whales came up. My daughter-in-law came up, she was on the kayak. At first, she thought they were dolphins, then she noticed they have fins and they were actually whales," witness Lee Dorough said. "Then we heard them scream that there were two up on the shore. There were 30 in that pod, and they all went running up there. My son and my granddaughter plus so many people were trying to get them out to sea.”

UPDATE: A group of pilot whales involved in strandings Tuesday that left three of them dead along St. Simons Island was...

Posted by Wildlife Resources Division - Georgia DNR on Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Dr. Quinton White, the executive director of the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University, said he was told by a former student that the phenomenon occurred near a Coast Guard post on East Beach.

Hours after this happened, Glynn County Emergency Management posted on Facebook saying in part: “This has been an unusual occurrence but events like these can really show the level of care and support from our community. Thank you to everyone that helped those that couldn’t help themselves today.”

White said apparently the whales have been near the shore recently, but it's unclear why. The Wildlife Division said pilot whales are the most common type to strand in large numbers.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources was on site investigating, White said. One by one, many of the whales were helped back out to sea. 

"Amazing," McCoy says in the video. "A sight I never thought I'd see in a lifetime."

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident, journalist and experienced broadcast news producer with a passion for classic and exotic cars.

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.