Zoology Dolphins save swimmers from great white shark

Discussion in 'Zoology' started by helenheaven, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. helenheaven

    helenheaven Premium Member

    A pod of dolphins herded swimmers together to protect them from a great white shark off a Northland beach.

    Four surf lifesavers were swimming 100 metres off Ocean Beach, 36 kilometres southeast of Whangarei, last month when dolphins began circling them and beating the water with their tails.

    Rob Howes, his 15-year-old daughter Niccy, Karina Cooper and Helen Slade spent the next 40 minutes in the water surrounded by the dolphins before they could swim back to shore.

    The four – from Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club – had been on a training swim when the pod of seven dolphins arrived.

    "They were absolutely steaming in toward us, which is normal. They may surf a few waves or hang around for a while and then they disappear," Mr Howes said.

    But what happened next astounded the veteran lifeguard.

    "They started to herd us up. They pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us."

    Mr Howes tried to drift away from the group, but two of the bigger dolphins herded him back.

    Then he saw why – a three-metre long great white shark was cruising toward the group about two metres below the surface, before it veered away.

    "I just recoiled. It was only about two metres away from me, the water was crystal clear and it was as clear as the nose on my face."

    When he saw the shark, Mr Howes realised what the dolphins were doing.

    "They had corralled us up to protect us."

    Mr Howes said he kept calm and did not tell the other three swimmers.

    Miss Cooper said the dolphins' behaviour was really weird. "They just started circling us and banging their tails on the water. It freaked me out."

    Lifeguard Matt Fleet had been patrolling out from the surf beach in a rescue boat nearby and saw the dolphins' unusual behaviour.

    He dived out of the boat to join the group and also saw the great white.

    Mr Fleet said the water had been clear and he had a good view. "Some of the people later on the beach tried to tell me it was just another dolphin but I knew what I saw."

    Mr Fleet was keen to get out of the water after the sighting, but did not panic. "I just kept looking around to see where it was."

    The incident happened on October 30, but Mr Howes said he had kept the story to himself till now because he did not want the great white to be hunted.

    Auckland University marine mammal research scientist Rochelle Constantine said dolphins were normally vigilant in the presence of sharks.

    The altruistic response of the dolphins was normal, she said.

    "They like to help the helpless."

    The slapping of their tails on the water was the dolphins' way of communicating and could have been a grouping function to bring them all together, Dr Constantine said.

    Ingrid Visser, who has been studying marine mammals for 14 years, said there had been reports from around the world of dolphins protecting swimmers.

    "They (the dolphins) could have sensed the danger to the swimmers and taken action to protect them," she said.

    Miss Visser, of Orca Research, said dolphins would attack sharks to protect themselves and their young.

    I think that is a pretty amazing story...dolphins are the most incredible creatures..
  2. Bleys

    Bleys Phoenix Takes Flight Staff Member

    Amazing, really amazing!

    The biggest question is why did they protect the swimmers? Most mammals have a protective instinct for their own kind - but not necessarily another mammal.

  3. JcMinJapan

    JcMinJapan Premium Member

    Actually, dolphins are known to protect humans and interact with them very well. I have personally dove with them in the open ocean while SCUBA diving. It was an amazing experience.

    Dolphins have been known to chase away sharks. It has been known that Dolphins use sonic or sonar to stun fish and easily catch their prey. I remember seeing a documentary on this many years back where they showed this on file. I remember the dolphin was going after a fish and then suddenly the fish stopped and bent itself into a half circle and stopped moving. The dolphin simply went up to it and ate it.
    Also, they are supposed to be able to tell if a woman is pregnant as well. I am not sure where I heard it, but they use sonar and can tell about us inside and out and one time a woman was in the water with dolphins and the females stayed close to her alot. The trainer asked the woman if she was pregnant and she said no, but later she found out that she WAS pregnant. Cannot remember if that was on the documentary, a rumor, or a friend that worked with dolphins in Hawaii that I had when I lived there.

    Quite interesting and smart creatures.
  4. Lastman

    Lastman New Member

    I've been wondering about this for a while now. The correlation between dolphins and humans, their behavior in relation to humans, and the apparently empathic bonds we seem to share. I've heard of projects involving dolphins, and their interaction with children suffering from certain physical and emotional handicaps. Wondered if anyone wanted to discuss, and maybe delve a little deeper.
  5. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    Actually I had an experience with my son back about 3 or was it 4 yrs ago, just off of Va Beach. My son I were swimming out a little ways, not to deep and there had been reported Sand Shark attack weeks before, but nothing since. Well, we were out there and we saw this school of dolphins, this is no lie, they got closer then closer...we thought they may be just checking us out and it drew attention from the shore. Well I started hearing screaming from the shore and people were running out of the water...

    Before I realized it, being a diver myself and been around the globe and in dangerous waters, I got bumped and ran across my legs. I knew then why people got out, a shark in shallow water had been spotted and heading our direction, knew that already by the bump. It was hard to not panic, cause I didnt think about me, I thought about my son and told him to swim to me, of course he questioned and I got stern with him to do it now but do little splashing as possible..he said why I told him to keep his voice down...I could barely touch the sand below and the waves kept bringing me up and back down....

    he got close to me and by the time he reach me we had all the dolphins around us. There were like 5 of them but only 3 stayed close to us i held him and the other 2 kept diving and popping up different places...one of the dolphin near us came up to us and stayed right there wading in the water and kept squeeking at us....my son, not knowing that a shark was there, hadnt told him yet, pet the dolphin and whne he went over the dorsal fin, the dolphin took off and my son held on, the dolphing got him as close it could to the shore...my son tried to go back in the water but the people on the beach grabbed him...
    I saw the shark one time peek the surface near me, but then it disappeared and the dolphins stayed with me til i got back closer to the beach then they just went back out played around and then headed off up the beach.

    My son was so amazed, it was the talk of the beach, of course a order was issued by beach police no more swimming. Sad thing was, 4 days later a boy and his father were attacked at that beach near sunset and boy died from a sand shark attack. BUt it was those dolphins that saved us, it was just awesome of the interaction they had. My son had made the paper the next day about his experience. Dolphins hace profound respect at our beaches.