Swimmer Noticed He Was Being Followed By Dolphins, Until He Looked Down And Gasped
When it comes to rivaling human intelligence, few animals come as close as dolphins. In fact, a number of scientific studies have suggested that dolphins - and indeed other aquatic mammals like orcas - have more emotionally complex lives than humans. It's for this reason that, after the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2012 and the subsequent release of the documentary Blackfish (2013), SeaWorld announced the end of its captive orca breeding programme - although dolphins are still bred there.
And further proof that these intelligent creatures should never be used for entertainment has come in the form of a man named Adam Walker's story. Prior to having a life-changing encounter with dolphins, he had been working a dead-end office job, but he eventually grew tired of his cubicle which, by then, probably felt like a coffin and decided to set himself a challenge.
As we all know, challenges can be incredibly good for our mental health because they give us something to focus on, and that's especially the case when these challenges relate to fitness as they release feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. This is something which Adam experienced first-hand as he had set himself the challenge of becoming an endurance swimmer.
Prior to this, Adam had to train every day, swimming long distances and only coming up for air when he had to. In addition to this physical training, Adam meditated daily so that he was mentally strong enough for the long road ahead of him.
Growing up in Nottingham, England, Adam always had an interest in sports, but, until then, his interest had been nothing more than a hobby at most. But he had no idea that his newfound commitment to swimming would change his life forever.
Once he felt like he had mastered the basics of endurance swimming, Adam set himself some seriously ambitious challenges. In 2008, he swam the English Channel, and after this, he decided to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Amazingly, this was another goal that Adam managed to complete - and what's more is that he was the first ever Englishman to do it. However, even though Adam was achieving a lot, these achievements came at a price and he often put himself in danger.
To discover how Adam was nearly EATEN by a great white shark, check out the video below:
For anyone unfamiliar with the sport, endurance swimming requires a person to be at their peak mental and physical fitness. And Adam did not have an easy first few months in the sport, contracting hypothermia after his first open ocean swim.
As a result of this serious illness, he was forced to take a break from the sport for a few months so that he could recover.
Shortly after Adam swam across the Strait of Gibraltar and back, the Oceans Seven Challenge was established. It challenged endurance swimmers to swim vast distances around the world including the North Channel, the Cook Strait, Tsugaru Strait, the Molokai Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar and the English Channel.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, even if it came at a high physical price, in 2014, Adam decided that he was going to attempt to swim across the notorious Cook Strait between North and South New Zealand.
The mammoth swim took Adam a whopping 8 hours and 36 minutes. However, after hours in the freezing cold water, he realized that he was not alone and that he had a bigger challenge than just endurance swimming on his hands.
To keep track of where he was on the open ocean, Adam always swam with a GPS tracker. It also gave him the ability to call for help if he got into trouble. And three hours into the swim, he considered using it for the latter when he began to feel unwell.
But then something he could have never imagined happened. He somehow managed to get his mojo back, but shortly after this, he noticed a fin slicing through the water, and when he looked down, he saw a number of dark shadows beneath him.
Once Adam's initial shock had passed, he realized that he was surrounded by a pod of dolphins. He'd never got this up close and personal with animals on the open ocean before and his mind flooded with questions. What would they do next? Would they see him as a threat? Even with his GPS, Adam was very much alone on the open ocean with the dolphins.
Not wanting to outstay his welcome, Adam summoned what strength he had left to try and get away from the pod. But then, when he peered down beneath the water's surface for the second time, he realized that they were following him.
And, on a closer inspection, Adam soon discovered the heart-stopping reason why the pod was so interested in him...
In between all of the dolphins' fins was one fin that was noticeably different from the others - and that was because it didn't belong to a dolphin but a shark. Needless to say, Adam was immediately overwhelmed by fear and panic. What started out as a personal challenge had now officially turned into a nightmare situation.
Even if he called for help, would it arrive on time?
Adam looked down again at the shark, and it was obvious that it was swimming through the ocean with intent - it was hunting and more specifically, it was hunting him. But every time it tried to inch closer to bite, something held it back.
It was the dolphin pod. Incredibly, they had chosen to follow Adam so that they could protect him from the shark, and after a few hours of tailing behind him, the predator eventually realized that it wasn't going to get a meal and gave up.
At this point, Adam expected the dolphin pod to swim off, but they stayed by his side for another 90 minutes.
Despite being no stranger to swimming on the open ocean, Adam had never had an encounter with wildlife quite like this one. The dolphins had shown compassion and intelligence, saving him from what would have likely been a fatal attack.
In an interview after the incident, Adam said that one of the dolphins was swimming so close to him that their bodies were occasionally brushing against each other and that he "felt very protected" as a result.
Even though Adam had felt unwell earlier in his swim, after finding a burst of energy on his own and narrowly avoiding the jaw's of one of Mother Nature's greatest predators, he found the motivation and strength he needed to complete his swim.
And once the pod of dolphins was sure that Adam was well enough to make it to his destination and had entered safer shark-free waters, they finally left him to complete his journey alone.
However, this story is far from over.
When Adam was back on dry land and his story made headlines around the world, he began to research dolphins' characteristics so that he could ask the one question on everyone's lips: How did he know the dolphins were there to protect him?
He soon discovered that these incredible creatures can swim up to six times faster than 50m sprinters. Obviously, Adam wasn't swimming this fast which meant that the dolphins had intentionally slowed down so that they could protect him.
At first, Adam took to social media to share his incredible story and eventually described it in greater detail in his book Man vs Ocean, which was released in 2016. Needless to say, people were enthralled by what the dolphins did to save Adam.
Four years on from the incident, Adam has now completed the Oceans Seven Challenge.
And, as was the case when he swam across the Strait of Gibraltar, he is the first British man to complete the challenge.
But this isn't the only impressive accomplishment that Adam has recently added to his belt. He also became the first Englishman to swim from Spain to Morocco and the first British person to swim the Tsugaru Channel and the Molokai Strait.
After starting out his incredible journey as an office worker who wanted to shake things up, Adam decided to use what he's learned to help others, and in addition to being an endurance swimmer, he also has a career as a motivational speaker.
Now, Adam travels the world encouraging other people to follow their dreams, and, if you're interested in finding out more about his encounter with the dolphin pod who saved his life, he's made a documentary about it called Conversations with Dolphins.
One thing's for sure - if dolphins are smart enough to save a life, they, like orcas, should no longer be bred in captivity.