TRALEE BAY, Ireland — An imperiled open-water swimmer was rescued earlier this month after an unlikely encounter with a pod of curious bottlenose dolphins.
The 30-something Derry man—unnamed in global reports—was over two miles from the shoreline and more than five miles from where he’d entered the water. The search was originally triggered after his possessions were found abandoned on the beach.
All told, the swimmer was in the water for over 12 hours.
According to the BBC, a group of rescuers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) spotted the swimmer late in their search after seeing a pod of dolphins actively playing and congregating in a specific area.
Upon investigating, the RNLI team found the man severely “hypothermic and exhausted” from hours of fighting strong ocean currents in the frigid Irish waters.
“At 20:30, the volunteer lifeboat crew with Fenit RNLI spotted a pod of dolphins and a head above the water about two-and-a-half miles off Castlegregory beach,” the RNLI said in a statement. “The [man] was conscious and immediately recovered onto the lifeboat and brought to Fenit Harbour to be taken to hospital.”
Found only in a pair of swim trunks, the man told rescuers that he had been attempting to swim to nearby landmark Mucklaghmore Rock, which is over 5.5 miles from the coast. Strong currents and shifting tides quickly overpowered the man and carried him woefully off course.
In a statement to the Irish Independent, RNLI’s Finbarr O’Connell indicated that the pod of dolphins played an outsize role in helping rescuers locate the missing man.
“Maybe they helped him in some way or another: who knows?” he wondered, also adding that if folks plan on entering the ocean, it’s important to “let people know where they are going and when they are expected back. This was a very lucky individual!”
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, we can’t all have a pod of dolphins to watch our backs in the water. Lake to river, sea to ocean, open waters are often cold and dangerous. That’s why it’s important to don protective immersion wear that can help insulate your core, preserve body heat and extend your window of survival in the world’s toughest conditions. Whether swimming to Mucklaghmore Rock, or at your local pool, BARE creates immersion wear solutions that keep you safer and more comfortable in the water.