Shoreham's community banded together to do some life-saving work yesterday after a dolphin became stranded on the beach.
A ragtag team of vets from Coastway Vets, marine medics, kitsurfers, the seafront officer, coast watch team and members of the public rushed to save a male common dolphin which had become beached.
Local kite surfer David Donald, who lives in Old Fort Road near where the animal was found, said he was kite surfing further down the beach at around 2pm when he was asked to help with the stricken animal.
David, who owns mobile spa business Splash and Tickle, rushed home to fetch a sledge usually used for transporting hot tubs which worked as an ideal vehicle for the dolphin.
A spokesman from Coastway Vets said the dolphin and moved it away from the water's edge to stop him being rolled around on the stones by the waves.
Vets Catriona and Gayle, who is a qualified marine mammal medic, assessed the stricken animal and found its injuries were all superficial, but it had been stuck on the beach for around two hours so was becoming stressed.
"One of the fabulous surfers present volunteered his pull board which was attached to the back of the seafront officer's quad bike," said the spokesman, referring to David.
"With bodies on either side and wet towels and blankets surrounding the dolphin to keep him moist and cool, we were able to move along the beach to a place of safety. Once we had all arrived, the board was detached from the quad bike and we slid him down the beach towards the water line.
"Then it was time for people power, with each of us taking a part of the blanket under the dolphin to move him like he was in a hammock into the water."
The group supported the dolphin in the water while it readjusted to its surroundings - the vets said it was gasping, flapping its tail and struggling to cope with holding its own weight in the water.
An initial attempt at removing the supporting blanket failed as the dolphin began to lean to one side, so the blanket was replaced. Its stressed gasping while on land then took its toll, as the animal began to pass wind and relieve some of its understandable discomfort.
The timely flatulence did the trick and the blanket was successfully removed for a second time. With a gentle flapping of its tail, the dolphin gingerly made its way back into the water, gaining confidence and eventually returning to its underwater home.
David said the rescue was a great sign of the community coming together.
"It was really nice to see," he said. "It was swimming round the harbour for a while, looking fine. It was a bit stressful seeing it on land - you don't expect to see that kind of thing out of the water - but luckily with professionals around they knew exactly what to do. It worked out really well."