A California man who fell from his boat in the middle of the night was able to swim to a nearby oil rig with the help of a kind-hearted seal.

Scott Thompson accidentally fell into the Pacific Ocean wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt while sailing off Santa Barbara earlier this month.

He told a reporter for the ABC7 news station how, stuck nine miles offshore in total darkness, he feared the worst.

He said, “I thought, great, this is how I’m going to die.”

© Provided by ABC7
Scott Thompson

Mr Thompson tried to swim after his boat to no avail and he started thinking about his wife and children until he heard a splash behind him.

“It’s just this little, medium-sized harbor seal. The seal was going underwater and it came to nudge me, like a dog that comes to nudge you in the leg,” he said. he told ABC7.

Knowing he had to make a decision and that land was too far away, Mr. Thompson chose to swim in the dark to an oil installation he had spotted.

After about five hours, spurred on by the chance encounter with his aquatic companion, he reached the facility just as the sun was beginning to rise.

“You have to get to the platform, you have no choice,” he said, adding “I was crying and screaming at the sky.”

The rig workers were able to get him on board and administer the aid.

He was then transported by the coast guard to a nearby hospital where he was treated for hypothermia.

Oil production off Santa Barbara

In 1969, Santa Barbara was the scene of a massive oil spill in which approximately 3 million gallons of crude oil were released into the sea.

Thousands of birds, fish and mammals were killed following the incident, which was due to shortcomings in safety measures at Unocal, then known as Union Oil.

The spill sparked global conservation movements and the first ever Earth Day was celebrated the following year.


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