The dolphin’s name was Mr. Spock, but he wasn’t demonstrating any particular brilliance or logic when he ate the screw.
A diver at Marine World in Redwood City, California had been doing repair work on the dolphin tank’s filtration system. Mr. Spock, a friendly sort, was considered no danger to the worker, so the repairs were being made without transferring the dolphin. It was a process which had worked before. What hadn’t happened before was the diver setting a screw in place, moving a few feet away to get a tool, and returning to find the screw missing.
A subsequent X-ray showed that the dolphin had, in fact, eaten the three-inch screw. While under normal circumstances, the dolphin might have excreted it or simply lived with it in its stomach, the screws in question were very specifically machined… and their threads were extremely sharp. Keeping it consumed, much less attempting to pass it, would likely kill the dolphin.
On the other hand, this was 1978… and using the available anesthesia on the cetacean would also likely kill it.
The staff veterinarian, familiar with the accommodating and normally bright nature of Mr. Spock, reached down the dolphin’s throat, feeling around. The X-rays showed that his fingers were almost a foot away from the screw; that wasn’t going to happen.
They attempted to induce vomiting. That didn’t work.
A newly developed fiber-optic tool was available at a nearby hospital, however. Using the probe, with a small grabbing device on the end, they were able to get the screw from the stomach. Or so they would have said, were it not for a partially-digested fish in the way.
That’s when a professional was called. Not a professional veterinarian, or a professional doctor, or a professional medical device manufacturer. Rather, it was Clifford Ray… Center for the Golden State Warriors. With an arm length of almost four feet, he was able to reach in and pull the screw free in a matter of about three minutes, from lubing up his arm to washing it off.
According to SFGate, Ray subsequently had a tiger cub named after him, was given a lifetime pass to the park, was given a bronze plaque of appreciation with the offending bolt affixed, and had a children’s book written about the event.
He also claims that whenever he would attend the park after the event, Mr. Spock would recognize him and swim over. One wonders if the squeaks meant, in dolphin speech, “Sorry about that half-eaten fish.”
Question of the night: Who’s your favorite retired sports star?