There are many amazing but true stories about dolphins assisting, rescuing and generally befriending humans, going back all the way to the ancient Greeks and before. One time I even read that the mystical tales about mermaids and mermen are probably founded in these stories.
source: Max Pixel
Let me introduce you to Pelorus Jack, a Risso’s dolphin that escorted ships through an especially dangerous stretch of water in Cook Strait, New Zealand, between 1888 and 1912. Before this friendly dolphin appeared, many shipwrecks occurred between Cape Francis and Collinet Point, near French Pass, but never when guided by good old Pelorus Jack:
Pelorus Jack was first seen around 1888 when it appeared in front of the schooner Brindle when the ship approached French Pass, a channel located between D’Urville Island and the South Island. When the members of the crew saw the dolphin bobbing up and down in front of the ship, they wanted to kill him, but the captain’s wife talked them out of it. To their amazement, the dolphin then proceeded to guide the ship through the narrow channel. And for years thereafter, he safely guided almost every ship that came by. With rocks and strong currents, the area is dangerous to ships, but no shipwrecks occurred when Jack was present. – source: Wikipedia
No one knows what motivates dolphins to perform these acts of extreme benevolence. No one knows what attracts them to those weird bipedal creatures who don’t actually belong in the water. But there’s something, because these stories are plentiful and have great similarities. Many surfers will tell you how dolphins love surfing on a good wave just as much as they do. But some surfers will tell you how their lifes were saved by these aquatic mammals. There are many, many stories of lone swimmers and even entire families being enclosed by a ring of dolphins, being herded together and to the shore when they were threatened or attacked by sharks.
According to Dr Diana Reiss, one of the world’s foremost dolphin experts, what we can say is that rescue behaviour in dolphins is not automatic or purely instinctual. “Dolphins make conscious decisions about when they intervene – they weigh up the situation and are selective about who and in which circumstances they help,” she says. – source: Action for Dolphins
Dolphins use sonar to see, and can penetrate our human body with it. It is often reported that dolphins have a strange affinity with pregnant women; could it be that they see or sense the baby inside? Other than rescuing us from sharks, there are many occasions on which dolphins saved humans, often children, from drowning by pushing them to the surface. In one story, a biologist was observing a pod of dolphins encircling a bunch of delicious sardines, when suddenly one of them broke off and spearheaded to an unknown location. Soon the rest of the pod followed, as did the biologist to approximately 3 miles away. To his surprise he found the pod encircling the floating body of a girl…
…at the Tangalooma Island Resort in Australia, where wild bottlenoses are regularly fed fish by people standing in the shallows, biologists have documented – on 23 occasions – the dolphins reciprocating, swimming up to offer freshly caught tuna, eels, and octopi as gifts. – source: Independent
I’ll close with a video about some more miraculous dolphin hero stories. These are amazing creatures, even if there’s also the occasional story about not so friendly dolphin encounters; they are really rare and most dolphins never exhibit unfriendly behavior, even when provoked or, in the case of Pelorus Jack for example, shot at. There’s much to be learned here, on multiple levels.