July 2, 2007 - BlueVoice Among Dolphins - Week 2
Day 8: Boarded Shearwater at 5pm last night and headed out at 3am. I awoke at 7am and went to the bridge to scan for deep-water animals. None sighted but it’s worth looking and I love the feeling of crossing the Gulf Stream, this vast torrent of warm water which controls so much of the earth’s climate; something I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old.
We reach the dolphins area around 1pm and cruise quite a while finding nothing. But at 4:15pm we find two subgroups in close proximity. They are playing and continue to play as we approach them. We then have over three hours among the dolphins. They do engage us a bit but my feeling was that mostly they were playing in our vicinity. There were senior adults and perhaps seven younger dolphins in ages ranging from two or three years old to perhaps six judging by their spotting patterns. The spotters are gunmetal gray when born and add spots as they age. The two subgroups join and then intense play breaks out among all the twelve dolphins. It’s a privilege to witness the lives of these animals in the wild.
Our traveling companions are delirious from this unique experience, which occurred, in late afternoon through evening in the most beautiful late afternoon light.
A particularly interesting observation was made by several – a single adult dolphin above a group of five young dolphins in the water column. The large dolphin had its mouth open and seemed to be talking to the group of youngsters as though they were students in a classroom. The youngsters were answering back with mouths open and seemed to be talking in a human way. But dolphins do not communicate mouth open so this was something else.
Mouth open can be a threat but it can also be an indication of roughhouse playing.
Later that night we anchored in the Gulf Stream and a few dolphins showed up to grab the flying fish and squid attracted by our boat light. More arrived as the night progressed until there were perhaps 15 dolphins chasing their dinners with exhilarating bursts of speed. Boat Captain Jim Abernathy caught the entire day in a series of 85 wonderful photographs and the groupings will be interesting to study. Overall an astonishing day with a total of more than six hours of close contact with the dolphins.
Day 9: Dove the Sugar Wreck in the morning. As usual it proved to be one of the world’s most beautiful shallow water dives with colors visible due to the shallow depth and myriad fish of many species, including a lion fish – a Pacific fish now proliferating in the Atlantic.
Two days of somewhat rough weather and sparce contact with dolphins.
Day 11. A wonderful SCUBA dive early this morning to 65 feet. Large grouper and reef sharks. Clear water and a crevice to swim through. I emerged stoked. We then hit a massive thunderstorm and deluge of rain. But in late afternoon we hit perhaps fifty dolphins working a ball of yellowtails. This is something I’ve not seen in 29 years out here though I know it is how many marine creatures feed. The dolphins easily outswam the fish and had no trouble taking what they wanted. Some dolphins formed a barrier to escaping fish while the rest attacked vertically. We had 6 – 8 divers in the water and the terrified fish sought shelter near us, clinging to our shoulders, running into bathing trunks, into arm pits and down the fronts of women’s swim suits. The dolphins pursued the fish into their hiding places, in one case threatening to remove the bathing suit of one of the women from our boat. For the yellowtail it was sheer terror and fight to survive. The dolphins never let up reducing the school to a fragment of what it had been by the time we withdrew from he water due to darkness. A few of the yellowtail abandoned the school and streaked off into the deep blue of the sea alone – perhaps to meet up later or perhaps be taken by predators in the night. I looked into the eyes of the fleeing fish and saw sheer terror.
Among our divers delirium reigned. We had been in the midst of a primordial event - as raw as it gets but we were not threatened. We were witnesses within the massacre, untouched.
July 6:. Arrived Riviera Beach, offloaded the boat and said good-bye to the wonderful group of people with whom we had shared this unique experience.
Next year we will seek out other schools of friendly dolphins in the Bahamas. Details at www.bluevoice.org as we finalize plans.