Hope Spouts for Stranded Florida Whales
Survivors are moving to deeper water but not safe yet
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2013 12:47 AM CST
Updated Dec 6, 2013 4:17 AM CST
Officials in boats monitor the scene where dozens of pilot whales are stranded in shallow water in a remote area of Florida's Everglades National Park.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(Newser) – They're not out of the woods—or, more accurately, out of shallow Everglades waters—yet, but rescuers now believe dozens of whales stranded in Florida have a good chance of survival. The surviving 35 pilot whales from the stranded pod are slowly moving toward deeper waters, nudged along by rescue teams using "gentle herding" techniques to get them away from the lethally shallow, sandbank-crossed waters where 11 of them perished and another five are missing, reports USA Today.

The whales, which usually live in water 1,000 feet deep, are now in water around 18 feet deep and the chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine mammal stranding network says the rescue mission will be called off if they make it to 100 feet. "We are cautiously optimistic," she says, though it could still go either way—there have been cases of beached whales moving toward deeper water, then re-stranding themselves. It's not clear how this pod came to be stranded in the Everglades but scientists hope tests on the dead whales will provide some answers.