A man is recovering after a 12-hour ordeal in the chilly waters off the coast of Ireland, and he has a pod of dolphins to thank for his survival.
Ruairi McSorley, 24, became stranded more than 2 miles off the shore of Tralee Bay on August 22 when rescuers were able to find him.
“They had been scanning the water for any sign of movement and were worried with fading light that they wouldn’t find anyone,” Gerard O’Donnell of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) told the BBC.
Rescuers spotted the pod of dolphins circling around something, and they discovered McSorley amongst them. He was hypothermic and exhausted, wearing only a pair of swim trunks in the cold waters.
The search for McSorley began when his clothes and other items were found midday on Castlegregory Beach. Other visitors at the beach had seen McSorley enter the water but never return.
The all-day search ensued, and he was found around 8:30 p.m. thanks to the dolphins.
RNLI coxswain Finbarr O’Connell told the Irish Independent there were a lot of dolphins around McSorley when they located him.
“Maybe they helped him in some way or another,” O’Connell said. “Who knows?”
Experts say dolphins have been known to react in this manner in numerous instances. They are believed to have something known as reciprocal altruism.
Whatever the reason, O’Connell said McSorley is fortunate to have survived his ordeal.
“He was very, very lucky. There is no doubt about it,” O’Connell said. “Another half an hour, and he was a goner. None of us or the medics can believe he survived it.”
McSorley told rescuers he was attempting to swim to Mucklaghmore Rock, which is more than 5 miles from the beach where he started. But about halfway there, exhaustion took over.
When the boat got near the dolphins, rescuers weren’t sure there was anybody there. But McSorley managed to raise a hand, giving rescuers a sign their hard work had paid off.
“It was a great, great moment for us,” O’Connell said. “The elation of seeing somebody floating alive in the water, rather than the other way, is so great. We have had too many bad outcomes, so it was absolutely fantastic to pick him up.”
This isn’t the first bit of notoriety for McSorley, who was taken to a local hospital where he recovered. Nine years earlier, he was featured as a teenager in a video that went viral.
In 2015, McSorley was interviewed on his way to school in rare snowy conditions for the area. With a thick Irish accent and his jacket and tie attire, McSorley said “you wouldn’t be long getting frostbit.” He became known as Frostbit Boy thanks to the video, which garnered more than 3.5 million views in just a few days after its posting.
After his latest ordeal, McSorley said he is feeling 100 percent. He told the Daily Mail the rescuers are the reason.
“They’re very professional and very slick,” McSorley said. “They’re incredible people, I have to say. They aren’t like doctors or paramedics — paid professionals. They’re volunteers. They’re definitely a great group of people, there’s no doubt.”
But they aren’t the only great group. There’s a pod of dolphins that fall into that category as well.