October 10, 2010
SWIMMERS have told how a pod of dolphins protected them from a great
white shark off the northeastern coast of New Zealand.
Rob Howes and
three other lifeguards were on a training swim about 100 metres offshore at
Ocean Beach, near Whangarei, when the dolphins raced in and herded the group
“They started to herd us up, they pushed all four of us
together by doing tight circles around us,” Mr Howe said.
tried to drift away from the group, two of the bigger dolphins herded him
He then saw why. A three metre great white shark was cruising
toward the group about two metres below the surface.
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,” he said, adding he then
realised the dolphins had moved in to protect the swimmers.
were surrounded by the dolphins for 40 minutes before they were able to
reach the shore.
Another lifeguard, Matt Fleet, was patrolling nearby
in a rescue boat when he saw the dolphins’ unusual behaviour.
dived out of the boat to join the group he also saw the great white.
Fleet said he was keen to get out of the water after the sighting, but
“I just kept looking around to see where it was.”
The incident happened about three weeks ago, but Mr Howes and Mr Fleet
said they had kept the story to themselves until they had a chance to catch
up and confirm what they had seen.
Auckland University marine mammal
research scientist Doctor 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.”