Dick Van Dyke, star of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Poppins, recently told Craig Ferguson an amazing story of how he was once rescued by porpoises. Van Dyke visited The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and described how he was once on a ten foot long board (surfboard) near Virginia Beach but fell asleep and drifted far out to sea. When he awoke he had floated on currents far enough that he could no longer see land. Then he noticed there were fins moving through the water around him and immediately assumed there were sharks closing in. It turned out the fins were attached to porpoises, not sharks, and they were not only not dangerous, they actually started pushing him back towards land.
A person floating at sea might become disoriented without land as reference and could very likely swim in the wrong direction. But fortunately for Dick Van Dyke, the porpoises guided him in the right direction and pushed him all the way to the shore.
Because the Van Dyke story was not dated, nor confirmed, it might sound like fiction. But the truth is, there have been many incidences of dolphins and porpoises coming to the aid of humans in need. Several years ago a surfer was attacked by a great white shark, one of the world’s largest and most efficient predators. The shark actually came at the surfer a couple of times, each time biting him in a different place, and once knocking him off his surfboard. When he was off his board, a pod of dolphins who had been playing in the waves nearby, swam over to him and formed a protective ring. The ring kept the shark away from the terribly injured surfer who somehow was able to get back on his board. Then he wound up on a beach where his friends were and he survived due to quick medical attention. Without the dolphin protection, he was likely to have been killed by the shark.
In 2004, a group of life guards were conducting an offshore training session when a pod of dolphins suddenly gathered around them and started splashing water with their tales. At first the life guards were startled by the peculiar dolphin behavior, until they noticed a great white shark lurking about 6-7 feet from them. None of the swimmers were bitten by the shark, which was deterred by the protective barrier and actions of the dolphins.
One of the life guards explained, “I would suggest they were creating a confusion screen around the girls. It was just a mass of fins, backs and … human heads.” (Source: CBC.ca) The dolphins did not leave the swimmers until they had left the water and were on a rescue boat.
It appears dolphins don’t only save people though. In 2008, a group of rescue workers were trying to save two stranded whales. While the rescue workers weren’t able to make progress, a dolphin appeared and guided the whales back out to deep waters where they could swim normally. “Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the whales. She got them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing experience,” said Juanita Symes who was present to witness the brave and compassionate dolphin. (Source: National Geographic)