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Community spirit shines through as residents jump into icy waters to save trapped dolphins

The dolphins, identified as white-beaked dolphins, were unable to dive deep under the ice to escape and were injured by the rocks in the shallow water.

Community spirit shines through as residents jump into icy waters to save trapped dolphins
Image Source: Facebook/Geraldine Legge

Climate change is a harrowing reality that is happening right in front of our eyes. Among the most severely affected species by human activities are dolphins. They often encounter severe temperature changes and are going through a loss of habitat. Several programs and community efforts are going on to save these species and among them is a rural Newfoundland community, reports CTV News Atlantic.

Melvin Harnum, the mayor of Heart's Delight-Islington—a small community of around 675 people located at the south end of a harbor in Trinity Bay—is filled with immense pride and admiration for the remarkable display of compassion and bravery demonstrated by the people of his community in March 2023. When the Atlantic Ocean was freezing cold, over a dozen residents—including members of the local volunteer fire department—selflessly jumped into the water to rescue several dolphins that had been trapped by a massive crush of sea ice.


With the dolphins in distress and struggling to stay afloat, the quick-thinking rescuers loaded the animals onto deep-bellied sleds typically used for hauling ice-fishing gear or wood. Despite the challenging conditions, they managed to keep the dolphins alive and bring them back to safety on the shore. The heartwarming rescue effort was a testament to the strong sense of community and camaraderie that exists in Heart's Delight-Islington, where people are willing to go above and beyond to help those in need.

Harnum said: "Some of them were out there with nothing on, just had sneakers on out in the water. My God, ice water!" He added that if the residents' did not have the idea of using sleds, the dolphins would have died.


Pictures posted on the morning of March 11 showed what appeared to be a group of approximately twelve dolphins in distress, trapped in the shallow, rocky water near the shore. Harnum explained that strong winds and tides caused an influx of ice in the area, leading to the dolphins' entrapment.

According to Wayne Ledwell, a marine biologist from the Whale Release and Strandings group in the province, the dolphins that were stranded were white-beaked dolphins. These dolphins are not inclined to dive deep under the ice to escape, so they tried to move into shallower waters. Unfortunately, the rocks in the shallow water caused them harm and resulted in cuts on their bodies.


Ledwell said, "These animals, they won't last on a beach very long for being bruised up by ice." When he arrived at the location in the afternoon, he observed that the people of Heart's Delight were already working to transport the dolphins. He recounted that he moved the remaining sleds and their marine cargo onto a flatbed trailer and transported them to the nearby town of Whiteway, where the harbor was completely devoid of ice.

Ledwell revealed that some of the dolphins did not survive, and others could not make it through the Heart's Delight harbor before the ice shifted, trapping them once more. The Coast Guard later sent an icebreaker ship to the area to break up the wide, frozen slabs.


As they attempt to depart Trinity Bay, a lengthy inlet between Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula and the rest of the island, the dolphins that managed to escape are expected to encounter further obstacles. Ledwell pointed out that powerful Arctic winds are pushing thick sheets of pack ice southward towards St. John's and the dolphins would have to find a way to maneuver through it. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the dolphins were fortunate to have encountered trouble in Heart's Delight, where the community promptly took action.

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