Daphne the duck: Giant inflatable found off Perth after Australian search

image source, AFP/Getty
image captionDaphne blew away in strong winds ahead of an ocean swimming competition

A giant inflatable duck could be heading home after blowing away from a beach in Western Australia last week.

Daphne the duck, set to play a part in an annual ocean swimming competition, went missing on 11 March off Coogee Beach in Perth.

After a week-long search, and reported sightings hundreds of miles away, Daphne has popped up not far from where she blew away.

Local Toby Gibb found her on a fishing trip the day she disappeared.

Mr Gibb told the BBC he found the duck at around 06:30 - only an hour or so after Daphne went missing.

He is meeting Cockburn Masters Swimming Club chairman Peter Marr on Wednesday about returning the duck.

Who is Daphne?

Daphne, an inflatable duck the size of a small caravan, was to be used in the 22nd annual Coogee Jetty to Jetty Swim, a local ocean swimming competition.

The Cockburn Masters swimming club organises the event, and chairman Mr Marr told the BBC that Daphne - "a massive old girl" - was to be a marker for competitors in the water, "but she had other ideas".

Around 05:00 on the day of the competition, Mr Marr rolled Daphne down to the beach to set her up in the water, but the winds were too strong.

"She flew out of my hands," said Mr Marr. "I stripped off to chase after her but I couldn't catch her."

The club launched an appeal online for help finding the mascot.

Help us try and find our beloved Daphne... #whereisdaphnenow #helpusfunddaphne #helpfindtheduck

Posted by Coogee Jetty to Jetty Swim XXII on Thursday, March 15, 2018
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The idea for using Daphne as a turning buoy came from bingo.

22 in the game is known as two little ducks, and this is the 22nd swimming competition.

The club also gave out 1,100 small rubber ducks to all attendants.

But during the event, they had to use another turning buoy. "We had to blow up another turning buoy, a boring green cone - barely an adequate replacement," said Mr Marr.

"The number of kids who expressed their disappointment added to the angst of losing the duck."

Where did Daphne go?

The fear was that Daphne - who cost the club A$900 ($694; £500) - had blown off into the Indian Ocean, and would never be seen again.

There were reported sightings of the duck as far away as Geraldton, 270 miles (440km) north of Perth.

But ultimately, Daphne was found just off Rottnest Island west of the city.

After finding it, Mr Gibb towed Daphne along as company for a day of fishing.

image source, Toby Gibb
image captionDaphne, tied to the back of a boat, enjoyed a day of fishing on the day she went out to sea

"We drove around with it tied to the back," he said, until Daphne began circling around the boat.

"It started being a pain in the arse... I was concerned the ropes would get caught in the motor."

Daphne was deflated, taken back to shore, and has been at his home in the suburb of Gosnells ever since.

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Mr Marr is going to meet Mr Gibb on Wednesday to "secure her release".

As a reward, Mr Marr said the club plans to offer up branded merchandise, a free family pass for the competition next year, and "a bottle of vodka".

"I'm sure we can find a mutually acceptable proposal," he said.

Reporting by the BBC's Toby Luckhurst

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