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By Phil Helsel

Eight pilot whales stranded on a New Zealand beach south of one of the biggest mass strandings in the nation’s history apparently refloated themselves, the government said Wednesday local time.

The eight whales were discovered Tuesday afternoon local time south of Farewell Spit, where hundreds of whales became stranded Friday through Sunday. About 400 whales died, but about 200 refloated and were last seen out at sea, the Conservation Department said.

The eight whales discovered Tuesday were wetted down with water and apparently refloated overnight, the department said.

"It was a huge local, national and global community effort," the charity group Project Jonah said Wednesday on Twitter. About 500 volunteers turned out to help, the Conservation Department said.

Around 650 whales were stranded in two different events over the weekend. The first, on Friday, involved about 416 pilot whales, 250 to 300 of which were dead when rescuers arrived, the Conservation Department said.

Volunteers caring for pilot whales Saturday during a mass stranding at Farewell Spit in New Zealand.Marty Melville / AFP - Getty Images

A second mass stranding involving about 240 whales occurred late Saturday between Puponga and Pakawau.

Friday's stranding was the third-largest in New Zealand since authorities began collecting data in the 1800s, the Conservation Department said. In 1918, 1,000 whales were stranded on the Chatham Islands, and 450 whales were stranded in Auckland in 1985.