Dolphins are playful creatures. A common sight off many coastlines, the creatures have been heralded for years as friendly.
There are even stories of dolphins rescuing people, helping push them to shore after boats have crashed. They’re certainly not as scary as sharks.
But this last week, it was people coming together to rescue a pod of dolphins.
Eight white-beaked dolphins had gotten themselves stuck in a patch of water surrounded by ice in Newfoundland.
Since Sunday, the seven had been circling in their icy prison near Heart’s Delight. On Thursday their situation became direr as winds sprang up and pushed the ice closer to the shore.
Experts considered using a boat to break up the ice and forge a pathway for the dolphins to escape through, but they were concerned that bringing a boat so close might stress them out and cause them to beach themselves.
Even if they didn’t beach themselves, they might lose access to the surface of the water — if they got trapped under the ice, they would suffocate.
There were plenty of volunteers nearby, ready to assist if the dolphins were pushed ashore, but even if they got to them in time, put them in nets, and transported them to open water, there was still no guarantee that the dolphins would survive the transfer.
Wayne Ledwell, head of the Whale Release and Strandings Group, helped keep an eye on the situation. He and some concerned onlookers stayed by the water all night.
Finally, someone came up with a plan. Fire Chief Stan Legge used an excavator to begin moving slabs of ice out of the water.
It took some time, but eventually, a boat helped move a few remaining chunks of ice out of the way and a channel to freedom was cleared.
“It was like a New Year’s Eve party,” said Ledwell, “but it could have gone the other way.”
The citizens, who’d been watching the proceedings with trepidation, were elated to see the pod swim to freedom. “They were all clapping and blowing horns,” said Ledwell.
“The big guy — the lead guy — led the way,” Ledwell later said in an interview. “What an amazing effort and what an amazing group of people down here.”
On March 22, the DFO_NL Tweeted about the success: “We are pleased to say that with the assistance of our Fishery Officers, Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release & Strandings Group, local residents & favourable wind conditions, the dolphins enclosed by ice in Heart’s Delight are now free.”
Thanks to some ingenious problem-solving and many willing hands, these eight dolphins made it back to the safety of the open waters.
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