Society

Dick Van Dyke Fell Asleep Surfing, Rescued By Porpoises

| by Sarah Zimmerman

Veteran actor Dick Van Dyke once had a brush with death while surfing, but was miraculously saved by a pod of porpoises.

Van Dyke, 91, told late-night chat show host Craig Ferguson in 2010 that in his younger years he often surfed in his spare time, saying he used a 10-foot long board to ride the waves off Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to the Daily Mail.

One surfing trip, the star of the hit sitcom "Dick Van Dyke Show" recounts how he accidentally fell asleep while lying on his surfboard and drifted out to sea.

"I went out once and fell asleep on that board and I woke up out of sight of land," he told Ferguson.

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The "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" actor then saw fins encircle his board. Thinking they were sharks, he was sure the end was near.

"I looked around and I started paddling with the swells, and I started seeing fins swimming around me. I thought, 'I’m dead,'" he said.

But the fins belonged to porpoises and they weren't there to hurt him, but help him.

"They turned out to be porpoises," he said. "They pushed me all the way to shore -- I’m not kidding."

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Van Dyke is well-known for his sit-com, "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which began airing in 1961. After that, he became a film legend, starring in classic movies like "Bye Bye Birdy," "Mary Poppins" and "Dick Tracy." Although his acting career began winding down in the 2000s, The Guardian reports he appeared in "Night at the Museum" as well as its sequel in 2009.

The actor confirms he "doesn't surf anymore," but did not say how old he was when the porpoise incident occurred. 

Porpoises and their closest relatives, dolphins, are both well-known for protecting not only their own kind, but also whales and humans. Scientists believe they are the only species, other than humans, to display altruism. 

Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian / Photo credit: Colin Knowles/Flickr

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