Fishermen Think They See a Seal On Iceberg, But Then Look Closer


They say that truth is stranger than fiction. And on a good day, the truth can be more gripping than any dramatic movie or television show.

That was certainly the case for a fishing crew off the coast of Labrador, Canada. Three people thought that it was going to be just another day on the water with their fishing boat, The Northern Swan. However, they soon encountered a mysterious creature. And after that, their lives would never be the same again.

What was this creature? How did they discover it, and what happened after they finally made contact? You won’t believe how this story unfolds!

It started as a normal day

June 22, 2018 started as a fairly normal day for Mallory Harrigan and Cliff and Alan Russell. This fishing crew had been operating in and around the North Atlantic for a long time. But nothing could have prepared them for what would happen this day.

It started with the crew having to start later than they wanted to because too much ice kept them from setting out. Interestingly, the ice also created a major impediment for someone else: the mysterious creature they encountered out on the water!

The initial sighting

Of course, the crew didn’t see the creature right away. Instead, they saw the iceberg that the creature was captured on. The iceberg itself was quite a sight: it looked for all the world like a mushroom frozen on top of the water.

By itself, the shape of the iceberg would have been unique enough to prompt some pictures from the crew. But as they looked closer at the iceberg, they realized that there was some living creature on top of it!

The mysterious creature

At first glance, the crew couldn’t tell exactly what kind of creature this was. But one thing was clear: it was stuck on top of the iceberg and it needed help.

The crew initially didn’t know what they were seeing. At first glance, it looked like a seal. However, a seal would presumably have found safety by jumping into the water. This creature wasn’t jumping in, and it seemed to be freaking out about being stuck on the iceberg.

At this point, the crew made a decision to save the creature’s life. They still weren’t sure what they were seeing, but they were fairly sure it would die if they didn’t offer help. But once they set off to rescue the creature, the operation proved more difficult than they imagined.

Difficult rescue operation

At this point, you might think that a rescue would be simple. The creature is on an iceberg and the crew has a big boat. They just need to get the creature in the boat. Easy, right?

Wrong. Icebergs can be unstable, having previously broken off from larger structures (most of the icebergs in this area, for instance, broke off from glaciers in Greenland). This presented the crew of The Northern Swan with some unique challenges.

They needed to get close to the iceberg and find a way to get the creature off of it. To do so safely, they’d need to figure out if the creature was wild and potentially nurse it back to health. First, though, they needed to simply figure out the identity of the creature.

The mystery creature finally revealed

Until they got a bit closer to the iceberg, the crew had been assuming they were looking at a baby seal. But as they got a little bit closer, it was clear that this wasn’t a seal or anything else that normally belongs in the water.

As it turns out, the mysterious creature was none other than an Arctic fox. And identifying the creature helped them to figure out more of the mystery. 

These foxes live in burrows and come out in search of food. The crew’s going theory was that this fox was searching for a snack when the ice broke off and sent the cute critter to the high seas.

They may have identified the creature, but now they needed to rescue it. And this is where the crew had to really think on their feet.

Initially, they had some concerns about the fox being a wild animal and what it might do to them once it was onboard. But the fact that it would die without their help hadn’t changed, so the crew had to come up with a way to rescue a freaked-out animal from an unstable iceberg.

Rescue mission successful

To do so, they used the unstable iceberg to their advantage. By breaking off part of the ice, they sent the fox into the water. He wasn’t in there long, though, because they fished him out of the water with their specialized dip net.

Once the fox was on the boat, things were really touch and go. It crawled into a corner and initially refused food. But they warmed him up in a sawdust bed and he began eating some chips, crackers, and Vienna sausages.

Eventually, the fox realized the crew was taking care of him and he began to relax and mellow out. By the time the boat reached land, it was a simple matter to release the fox back into the wild.

Happily ever after

After they dropped the fox off, you might think this was the last the crew would ever see of him. However, you’d be wrong!

The crew sometimes catches glimpses of the fox running around in the same area they set him free. He seems to be happily running around and chasing down prey. No more starvation for this fox!

This specific area of Canada is not very well-connected to the internet. But the story of the fox’s dramatic rescue soon took the entire world by storm once the story got out. And needless to say, the fox became something of a local celebrity to this small region of the country.