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BAFTA-winning actress Joanna Scanlan relives moment she nearly drowned

Lifeboats News Release

British actress Joanna Scanlan has spoken about the time she got into serious difficulty in the water at Durdle Door, Dorset, while on her honeymoon and how floating saved her life.

Joanna was speaking on the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) 200 Voices podcast, which has been launched in the run-up to the charity’s bicentenary on 4 March 2024, about her experience to remind others about how unpredictable the sea can be.

An experienced swimmer, Joanna Scanlan is used to spending time in the water so she decided on a visit to Durdle Door during her honeymoon to go for a swim. She swam towards the famous arch out in the water on the south coast, but as she got nearer, Joanna couldn’t make any headway. When Joanna started to make her way back to shore, the sight of huge waves was when it dawned on her that she was in real trouble.

Joanna, said:

‘What I felt in that moment was there’s a real danger, a genuine danger of potentially drowning. I’m stuck more or less like the centre of a washing machine. I said to myself, you have to do this. Because I feel very at home in the water, I didn’t panic. I know you can turn on your back, you can float, you can rest.

‘If I didn’t adopt this lifesaving skill, who knows what would have happened. It’s why I am supporting the RNLI’s campaign with Omaze to raise vital funds for the charity. With these funds the RNLI can continue the amazing work they do delivering water safety messages to the public and educating them on how to stay safe in and around the water.’

RNLI Ambassador Joanna Scanlan has been supporting the charity’s current fundraising prize draw with Omaze, who are giving away a stunning £4.5m coastal property in Norfolk, as well as £100,000 in cash. To be in with a chance of winning the beautiful house in Norfolk, whilst supporting The RNLI at the same time, visit

The partnership with Omaze will raise significant funds to help the RNLI continue its drowning prevention work and delivering vital water safety messages to the public. The draw closes at midnight on Monday 28 August, 2023.

The key summer safety advice to remember is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live; tilt your head back with ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help or swim to safety if you can.
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

Listen to Joanna’s podcast in full alongside other voices which are launched every day up until the charity’s bi-centenary on March 4 2024, wherever you get your podcasts or at

Notes to editor

  • Download footage of Joanna talking about her experience here. Raw footage from interview available upon request.
  • Photo of Joanna available to download here. Further RNLI imagery available upon request.
  • More information on the launch of the RNLI’s 200 Voices podcast can be found here.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please call Charlotte Cranny-Evans on 07393 763 780 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


Joanna Scanlan shared her terrifying story for the RNLI's new 200 Voices podcast.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.