In June 1971, Yvonne Vladislavich was sailing on a yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean when suddenly the craft exploded. She was thrown clear but the vessel sank and she was left completely stranded. Far from the shipping lanes, there was no hope of rescue. Terrified, she treaded water, awaiting certain death. Then she saw three dolphins approach her. To her astonishment, one of them swam underneath her and buoyed her up with his own large body. Gratefully she held on to the dolphin’s sleek, smooth body. The other two dolphins swam in circles around her to protect her from sharks.
The dolphins carried and protected her through the warm waters for many hours until they arrived at a marker-buoy floating at sea. They left her on the buoy and she was soon picked up by a passing ship.
It was calculated from the position of the buoy and the position of her yacht when it exploded, that the dolphins had carried her and kept her alive through 200 miles of dangerous seas.
International Dolphin Watch
Bill, a resident of Oxford, England, had suffered from clinical depression for more than 10 years. Horace Dobbs, who runs International Dolphin Watch, decided to take Bill out in a boat off the Pembrokeshire coast to see if watching dolphins would have a positive effect on the man. A dolphin swam right up to Bill, although there were 20 other people in the boat.
Communicating with this creature began to lift his depression. “I felt wanted for the first time,” Bill said. “There were no questions asked.” The dolphin stayed with Bill. “The message I received was, ‘I need you and you need me. Let’s share our lonely worlds together.’”
Bill was so impressed with the experience that he decided to swim with another dolphin off the coast of Ireland. Bill now returns to swim with that dolphin every year.
Dolphins understand the difference between play and a serious situation. Once, the crew of the boat Aquanaut had to give up its plan to practice lifesaving techniques in the ocean because a playful, happy dolphin kept interrupting the activities.
Later in the day when a member of the boating party got into serious trouble, the dolphin gently supported the man on the surface and helped a crew member tow him to the diving ladder. But that was not the end of the dolphin’s concern. The dolphin swam alongside the ship and watched quietly until he could see that the man had recovered.
“Perhaps, in some way, I owe my gold medals to the dolphins. In their trusting and playful way, they taught me the subtleties of swimming technique.”
–Olympic gold medalist Matt Biondi, who swims with the dolphins
Adapted from Random Acts of Kindness by Animals by Stephanie LaLand (Conari Press, 2008).