HARBIN (Xinhua) — In a “black swan” event, a video clip went viral showing a university worker paddle a boat out to rescue three black swans stuck on a frozen lake, only to get stranded in the ice himself.
In the footage that raised a lot of eyebrows on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, an old man struck his paddles on the ice to get the boat moving, while two swans nearby sat motionless on the icy lake.
The somewhat embarrassing sight of the otherwise graceful birds surprised and amused Chinese netizens, providing many with an excuse to make fun of the inclement winter in northern China.
“What does it feel like being a swan in northeast China?” a netizen asked tongue-in-cheek under a picture showing one of the swans standing on the ice. “Getting cold feet,” another responded.
Li Xuejie, the protagonist in the video, confirmed that the “rescue” at Harbin Normal University on Thursday morning lasted one hour in the “icy city” of Harbin, capital city of China’s northernmost Heilongjiang Province.
It happened after it snowed overnight causing the lake to freeze, “trapping” the three waterfowls, though none of them were literarily “frozen” as described in some video clips, Li told Xinhua.
“It was not actually a rescue mission but more of a yearly routine to bring them back to their winter nests in an temperature-controlled room,” said the 64-year-old whose job includes taking care of the swans.
“The swans seemed to read my mind and knew I was there to pick them up. They voluntarily got on the boat,” he said, adding that the three swans are now resting comfortably in a pond inside an temperature-controlled room.
According to the university, the three black swans were introduced to the campus lake in 2017 as a “beautiful sight.” Every winter, they return to their indoors nests under the care of specialists.