Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stuntwoman rescues a pod of dolphins stranded on New Zealand beach

She's clung on to speeding vehicles, thrown herself off 15m high platforms and been set on fire. Now she's rescued a pod of stranded dolphins.

New Zealand stuntwoman-turned-lead actress Zoe Bell was spending the week with her parents on Great Barrier Island and was on Okupu Beach with her flatmate in Los Angeles, Elaine Browne, when they spotted a pod of six dolphins swimming close to the shore.

Her flatmate saw the fins first and asked if they were sharks.

"They weren't moving like dolphins so I was thinking it was a very shallow shark feeding frenzy and I was pretty excited because I hadn't seen one of those," said Bell, who stars in the Quentin Tarantino movie Death Proof and was Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill: Vol 1.

The dolphins were in about 30cm of water and the pair tried shifting them.

"Elaine and I had to literally manhandle the dolphins. I mean, they were all just muscle, just dorsal fins and muscle."

But the dolphins kept swimming back.

"They were really stressed and panicking. If you put your head underwater you could hear them going nuts underwater, screaming."

Locals soon joined them. Together they sat with the dolphins and kept them wet until they calmed down.

Up to a dozen people got involved in the midday drama on Saturday. "It certainly wasn't just me saving dolphins, you know what I mean, it was a massive team effort," Bell said.

Eventually the dolphins calmed down and slowly swam out.

"It was a definitely once-in-a-lifetime experience. "

DoC ranger Halema Jamieson said that after speaking to the rescuers he believed the mammals were likely to be common dolphins.

A similar stranding had taken place at Okupu about a year ago, but no one really knew why.
"Although they seem to be stranding, it's really unusual for dolphins to strand, and especially on an incoming tide, so it's quite possible the animals were coming into really shallow water either to feed, or possibly to calve."

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"