A missing swimmer was found off the coast of Ireland thanks to the assistance of a few friendly dolphins.
The swimmer had been lost for over 12 hours when volunteers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) saw him surrounded by a pod of dolphins on August 22, according to the BBC.
“At 20:30, the Fenit RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew saw a pod of dolphins with a head above the water about two and a half miles off Castlegregory beach,” according to the RNLI. “The victim was conscious and was promptly rescued by the lifeboat and sent to Fenit Harbour for treatment.”
When he was found, the swimmer, a guy in his 30s from County Londonderry, was “hypothermic and fatigued,” and had only been wearing a swimsuit after hours spent in the frigid waters.
The man informed his rescuers that he had been trying to swim out to Mucklaghmore Rock, which is nearly five miles away from where his clothing were found. The hunt was triggered by his abandoned possessions.
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Before they found the guy among the dolphins, the rescuers had been “searching the water for any sign of movement and were anxious with light failing that they would not find anyone,” according to Fenit RNLI’s Gerard O’Donnell.
He was transported to University Hospital Kerry and is still recuperating.
The animals that surrounded him were eventually identified as bottlenose dolphins from the Moray Firth in Scotland. The dolphins have been sighted off the coast of Ireland since 2019.
When RNLI coxswain Finbarr O’Connell and his crew eventually found the missing swimmer, “a number of dolphins were around him,” he told The Irish Independent. “Perhaps they assisted him in some way: who knows?” he added.
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“Let people know where you are going and when you are expected back,” O’Donnell told anybody going for a swim, adding, “This was a really lucky individual.”
Dolphins have a long history of defending people at sea. “Dolphins have been found to occasionally participate in’reciprocal altruism,’ assisting individuals of other cetacean species,” according to Slate.
A pod of dolphins encircled four New Zealand swimmers in 2004 and saved them from a great white shark, allowing them to escape. Orca Research’s Ingrid Visser remarked at the time, “They may have detected the threat to the swimmers and taken action to protect them.”
In a similar event in 2014, long-distance swimmer Adam Walker made news when a school of dolphins helped keep him safe from a nearby predatory great white.