Marine biologists have long believed that dolphins are intelligent creatures. These aquatic mammals demonstrate a wide range of feelings and emotional intelligence, displaying responses such as empathy, grief and joy, and behaviors such as self-awareness, problem-solving and playfulness.
Recently, an Irish emergency rescue service had firsthand experience with the compassion of the animals when a pod of dolphins drew the rescuers’ attention to a missing swimmer. Fenit Lifeboat Station posted the details of the rescue on Facebook on August 23.
“Early yesterday, Fenit RNLI All-Weather Lifeboat crew were on exercise when they were tasked to a search for swimmer at 12.40pm, following the discovery of clothes on a beach. Fenit RNLI Inshore lifeboat and Rescue 115 also joined the search. Conditions were excellent with calm waters and low tide and a search was undertaken of the area. With nothing found and no further information the search was stood down in the afternoon,” the rescue service posted.
However, authorities called the search back on later that day.
“At 6pm the search was reactivated at the request of An Garda Siochána with the two lifeboats searching the original area and the bay nearer to Tralee and again joined by Rescue 115 overhead,” the post continued. “At 8.30pm, 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 casualty was conscious and immediately recovered onto the lifeboat and brought Fenit Harbour to be taken to hospital. Fenit RNLI’s medical advisor was also on scene.”
The swimmer, who was more than 2 miles out at sea and had been missing for 12 hours, suffered exhaustion and hypothermia, but he was conscious and expected to recover fully.
Fellow volunteers credited RNLI coxswain Finbarr O’Connell with the actual rescue, as he used his knowledge of the tides to calculate where the man was likely to be. Fenit RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Gerard O’Donnell shared that the crew was overjoyed to find the man and warned others to take precautions.
“We would advise that anyone undertaking a swim lets people know where they are going and when they expected back,” O’Donnell stated in the post. “This was a very lucky individual.”