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Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Friday, 21st June

Count on a dolphin to restructure your expectations. When I changed into my 5-4-3 wetsuit she was already there, nuzzling at the ancient grin of the sperm whale rock. But the warm, wet welcome I so much expected after yesterday’s tête-à-tête was strangely non-existent after my heroic submersion into the wall of waves. Confident in a swift encounter I did not even bother to get a rock from the seabed to present my sound signature with on the waterwing.

I set course for the slipway, but the surf dragged at me so much that I decided to head in the opposite direction. I knew she was out there somewhere in the placid grey, monitoring my position with perfect accuracy, but that was where she stayed.

After some 20 minutes I felt a slight seasickness building up in the heaving waves, so I decided to throw the ultimate bluff: 'I was going to leave the water'. When I reached Pollenawatch, the anchoring stone about one and a half metre below me, she shot by. I turned, tried to follow her, but she disappeared in the haze. I idled in the waves and shortly after she returned but only to disappear again. For the next ten minutes she played hard to get, shooting by with intervals of a minute to a minute and a half. Then she stayed around as if by sudden decision and came closer quite rapidly.

The moment she started pushing the waterwing I let her have it. I had been wandering if she would use the knowledge she had acquired yesterday. If I would let her have the wing at the surface, instead of pushing it down, would she take it belly-up? She had learned more than I had figured out. She had understood that, once the wing is on the move it keeps a trajectory and is far less subjected to buoyancy. That is why I need less weight when I'm dolphin swimming compared to when I'm diving. Without lingering she took the inside handle on the fold between her beak and her melon and burst away with it, pushing the wing in a position that was about 30 degrees away from vertical. That was where she left off yesterday, choosing for herself to go belly-up. Now she was swimming under an angle of about 30 degrees to port, probably to accommodate for the positioning of the wing

With a slightly apprehensive confidence that she would not take it much further than visibility range, I followed as best as I could, but after losing eye contact, she did not appear on the surface. I felt a flicker of worry stirring, but then I saw: instead of swimming in a straight line she had followed almost a quarter of a circle. To keep the wing steadily on her head, she needed counter-pressure that was coming from 'above' the wing. Since she held it near vertical, her trajectory should be aimed under a straight line. Thus she came out on starboard side.

I decided to keep my meal inside and got out of the water. In spite of the waves I had a safe landing. I am getting better at this, but the tide always presents a different situation. Dusty stayed for almost an hour, frolicking under the sperm whale rock and scratching herself on 'head & shoulders'. I sat on the edge of the pool rock, caressing her with my hands and my feet.

Aren't dolphins clever?

Jan Ploeg (see
Date Posted: 21/06/2002
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