St. Lucie County, FL (KSDK)-- In Florida, a team of experts is trying to save five stranded pilot whales. They're hydrating the whales with fish smoothies through a feeding tube every four hours and monitoring their activity levels around the clock.
The whales are the only ones to survive from a group of 22 that came ashore on a South Florida beach this weekend. Among those helping with the lifesaving efforts is a former St. Louisan who recently moved to Florida.
Marshall Pennell lived in the St. Louis area for 17 years and just recently moved to Florida to start a business. He says he's seen whales from his balcony a time or two but this was unlike anything he's ever seen or done. He was one of the first people on the scene arriving just minutes after the whales washed up.
"Their tales were flopping and I immediately turned to my wife and said 'I'm going down there come with me,' so we grabbed the camera and went down there and we were some of the first ones on the scene," says Pennell.
He and his wife rushed down from their condo and onto the beach where they saw the 22 whales trying to survive on the sand. Scientists asked for the public's help in holding onto the creatures, not letting them swim away.
"I paid particular interest to one small whale," he says. "I stayed with it for an hour and it was just the most amazing experience of my life."
"I got my head right down there by it's eye and I saw it eye turn and its pupil dilate and focus right on me, it was the coolest thing and I was just talking to it, just in kind of a quiet voice," he says. "It was just looking at me and then it made this squealing noise it was like a loud squeak. As I talked to it, it did this thing and I thought this whale hears me, I don't know what its saying but I think probably something like hurry up!"
After an hour or so Pennell walked away from the situation but keeping close watch on the situation he learn that 17 of the 22 whales did die, but 5 including the one he held survived.
"I never thought I would get the chance be able to like kneel down by a pilot whale hold it up feel its skin and then when it moved it's eye and recognized me and responded me it was just the coolest thing," he says.