A pod of dolphins guarded a British open-water swimmer as he came into close contact with a deadly shark.
In tough conditions in freezing waters, swimmer Adam Walker was attempting to navigate a difficult patch of water near New Zealand, when he spotted a six-foot shark beneath him.
Fearing the worst, the Nottingham man was rescued by a pod of dolphins who circled around him as he cut through the 16-mile long Cook Strait.
He said on Facebook in 2014: “I’d like to think they were protecting me and guiding me home. This swim will stay with me forever.”
On a day that was “like swimming in washing machine”, Walker said his encounter with the dolphins was a “dream” and it was “more important”.
He added: “Dream come true swimming with dolphins over an hour…open-water swimming doesn’t get any better than this!”
The appearance of the shark came as a surprise to Walker, who was told by New Zealand swimmer Philip Rush he did not need to worry about sharks.
Walker told the Marlborough Express he “had a go at him when I got out.”
Sharks target dolphins, particularly young calves or sick and injured ones, as prey and it is estimated that one-third of dolphins in Sarasota, Florida have scars from a shark bite.
The intelligent creatures rely on their strength in numbers to ward off attacks and they use their snouts as a “powerful weapon” to ram into sharks and focus on attacking the soft underbelly and vulnerable gills.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) organisation said: “The main advantage dolphins have against shark attacks is safety in numbers; they stick together in pods and defend one another from a shark’s attack by chasing and ramming it. Dolphins are able to protect vulnerable members of their pods and extended families such as young dolphins and injured or sick dolphins.”
It is not the first recorded case of dolphins protecting humans and in 2004, lifeguard Rob Howes and his 15-year-old daughter were swimming with two of her friends off the New Zealand coast when they spotted the feared great white sharks.
Shark attacks are common and the sea beast is happy to attack humans left in a vulnerable position in the water, so spotting the shark in open waters can easily cause alarm for swimmers.
Howes told the Northern Advocate: “The dolphins started to herd us up, they pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us.
“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… some of the people later on the beach tried to tell me it was just another dolphin – but I knew what I saw.”