At one point or another, we've all blamed our GPS for leading us down the wrong road, but sometimes, this familiar technological slip-up can turn out to be a lifesaver. 

When photographer Lorraine Culloch and her partner got the wrong directions from their car’s navigation system on a recent trip in the Scottish Highlands, a series of wrong turns put the pair in just the right spot to save a stranded bottlenose dolphin. 

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Image: Lorraine Culloch via ‎Scotland from the Roadside/Facebook

"For once I'm so glad our sat nav messed up and took us down the wrong road," Culloch said in a Facebook post. Driving lost along the coast, Culloch suddenly noticed the shape of a dolphin on the beach. 

The animal had become stranded in Nigg Bay, a vast stretch of mudflats, saltmarsh and wet grasslands. When Culloch realised it was still alive, she immediately called local wildlife rescue officials, who arrived on scene just a short while later.

Rescuers sat with the dolphin for some ten hours until the tide was high enough to get it back out to sea. During the long wait, the team draped the animal in wet blankets and seaweed to reduce stress and protect its skin from the elements. 

"These amazing men and women stayed up all night waiting and monitoring the dolphin, before wading out into cold, deep water at 4am," said Culloch, whose decision to call in the experts was the right move. Interfering with a marine mammal – even one in need of rescue – is illegal in some countries, and in the US, it can lead to hefty fines.

Much to the delight of everyone involved, the dolphin managed to swim for deeper water, and it appeared to be strong and healthy. "A massive well done to all involved – an amazing team of people,” added Culloch.

The coastal area that includes Nigg Bay is one of the most important spots in the UK for whales, dolphins and porpoises. It's thought the rescued animal belongs to a well-known local population of around 130 bottlenose dolphins. Individual animals within the group are known to local researchers because distinctive markings on their dorsal fins allow them to be identified and tracked

Sadly, these resident dolphins are under serious threat from activities like oil and gas exploration, as well as pollution and entanglement in fishing gear. "In spite of evidence that the population is under multiple threats, not enough is being done to protect this unique, vulnerable and important group of animals," warns the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group

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Image: Lorraine Culloch via ‎Scotland from the Roadside/Facebook
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Help arrives. Image: Lorraine Culloch via ‎Scotland from the Roadside/Facebook
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Rescuers float the dolphin into deeper water. Image: Lorraine Culloch via ‎Scotland from the Roadside/Facebook
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The animal successfully swims off. Image: Lorraine Culloch via ‎Scotland from the Roadside/Facebook


Top header image: Hélène Surmont/Flickr