Whales are one of those animals that seem to be universally loved and respected (if you leave out whalers, I guess), and images of the giant creatures washing up on beaches full of plastic, disoriented and dying, can shake people to their core.

So when a group of beachgoers in Georgia spotted a pod of whales in trouble, they had the chance to really make a difference and be heroes of the hour.

It happened in mid-July on St. Simons island; people out enjoying the sun noticed not one, but an entire pod of whales that had swum too close to the shore and become stuck on the sand.

The beachgoers leapt into action, wading into the sea and pushing the smaller whales back into deeper waters while they waited for rescuers from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to arrive with more help.

Then the volunteers continued working alongside trained rescuers and were able to save all but two of the whales. And according to the Glynn County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s Facebook page, most of the cephalopods were totally unharmed when they returned to the sea.

At this time we would like to thank the many volunteers and first responders that stepped up to help the large number of…

Posted by Glynn County EMA and Homeland Security on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

“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.”

Scientists don’t really understand why beaching events happens, or why an entire pod might find themselves in trouble, but they posit that perhaps one sick whale wandered too close to the shore and inadvertently led the rest into danger.

They plan to conduct autopsies on the two whales who did not survive the event in the hopes they might learn something that could help whales in the future.

So, there you go – be the hero you want to see in the world… even if you don’t get a cape for your efforts.