Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Thursday, 20th June

There I was again, in the water, with Dusty, trying to establish the phases of approach she goes through, before she escorts me to where I leave the water. Just to have some sort of foothold I had prepared the following sequence: 'shoot, circle, sneak, stroke and 'scort'. These I hoped would help me to refine the identification of her developing behaviour towards me. But for such arduous labour one would actually need a notebook or even a waterproof Dictaphone and probably a haddock, as the dolphin succeeded in distracting me to such an extend that I am still trying to grasp what happened.

When she was in the sneaking phase, she pushed the tip of my waterwing pretty hard, like: 'I very much want to play with this!' with me replying: 'Yeah, I know and then I have to fetch it from the edge of the continental shelf.' She kept insisting and then, for the first time in my career as a dolphineer, I PUSHED her, under the beak! As I was tuned into mankind instinct, I expected a bad reaction, but nothing happened, except that she stopped pushing. A cartoon by Ron Cobb that I saw in an underground magazine in the early seventies came to my mind. It showed a few happy dolphins and underneath was written: 'And the meek shall inherit the Earth' (The Bible).

We slipped into the stroke phase and in one of the position finding manoeuvres on impulse I pushed the waterwing downwards. As it was sailing down in a majestic glide, Dusty burst after it like a can of Kindergarten kids just opened. She caught it with her beak in the middle, holding it down, as the wing, having spent its momentum, assumed buoyancy. She was fiddling it a bit with her beak, allowing the wing to take a vertical position. She tried to start swimming with it that way, but could not manage the buoyancy of the wing. Swimming at the surface it was kept in position by gravity. Underwater, if she wanted to push it horizontally, she had to solve the problem that buoyancy presented as the wing would slip over her melon. And she did, by swimming upside down, thus keeping the wing down under her beak and simultaneously in a position to push with her melon.

And there she went, speeding off with my precious favorite waterwing, like I've never seen before. Of course I went after her and though the visibility was reasonable and the yellow of the wing very traceable I soon lost sight of her. This to her seems to be a marker too. Each time I have been after her to retrieve the wing she stopped taking it further when eye contact was lost. Of course it could also be my temporary halt in pursuit. This time also she came shooting around me, without the wing. That was another 15 meter swim.

This was a very clear-cut case of a dolphin solving a complicated problem by trial and error to an end that was well defined. After some very nice cuddling and scratching she escorted me from half the slipway all the way back to knee-deep at Pollenawatch (3rd Dusty swimming cove). It rained the rest of the day, but who cares?

Jan Ploeg Email Me
Date Posted: 20/06/2002
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