On the afternoon of December 19th 2006, Jose Paulino Acacio was scuba-diving with three friends near the Berlinga Grande island, off the coast of Portugal. Around four pm, the men had surfaced, and began to swim towards the Damoisa, their rented boat. A swift rip current suddenly overtook the divers, pulling them fiercely into the depths. One companion clung to a buoy, and the other managed to scramble aboard the Damoisa. Acacio was pulled under, and did not emerge.
The Damoisa picked its way around the island of Berlinga Grande, hollering for Acacio, to no avail. The Portuguese coast guard (ISN) was called, and Jacino Neves, captain of the nearest ISN vessel, hurried to the island. He and his crew circumnavigated the island for three hours, until low fuel forced them to turn back to the port of Peniche.
Around ten-thirty that night, Neves received a call from several biologists, who had been doing research on the island of Farilhão, about six miles away from Berlinga Grande. They had heard what sounded like a whistle coming from a grotto on the shoreline. His vessel refueled, Neves hurried to Farilhão Island, where he found Acacio lying in the cave. He was blowing the Storm whistle.
Acacio was quickly transported to the hospital, where he was treated for severe hypothermia and dehydration. Despite being lost for over seven hours, the diver made a full recovery, and credited his rescue to the Storm Whistle, which supplied him with a voice when he was too weak to yell.
Pretty amazing, right? And the story dovetails perfectly with our newest podcast on rip currents.
Be careful out there, everyone!