Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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Mon, 5th August

Yesterday I went to Galway, to get a new battery for my apparently very rare watch. On the way back I have been thinking about time and timing. The direct occasion for this was a figure that Dusty and I performed last Monday. We do a lot of diving together and this time I followed her to about 6 metres. I estimate this by the fact that I had to compensate by blowing on my nose. There she started slowly going vertically upwards. I had to make a few strokes to get along her side, arms outstretched, my hands holding the waterwing at the tip of her beak, but at about 1.5 meter distance. At least the last three meters to the surface we were ourselves motionless, drifting on the upward pressure. Exactly at the same moment we broke through the surface, shooting out more than half a meter.

I have been focusing mostly on the physical relationship Dusty has with water, simply because it's there. She has to deal with it and this, to a degree, is accessible for me. This, of course, also goes for time, but more specifically for timing. Until now she has jumped close to me several times of which on a number of occasions she nearly landed on me. This may seem to have do with place, but the constant moving makes it even more a matter of timing. One time she crashed so near that the sound almost hurt my ears. Also she still enjoys gradually leading me up from the seabed and then jumps over me backwards. In the shallow water she likes to curve, drive straight into me, and bend of at the very last moment. And if I bend into her too, she even finds the other split second to avoid a collision.

When you see someone look at his watch and then ask him what time it is, he will probably look again to tell you. That is the absolute time. The first check was relative to a train, an appointment: 'How much time until...' or 'Is it time too...?'
I do not believe dolphins keep time like we do to clockwork, but their timing is at least as acute as ours. When a dolphin sonars a fish he wants to eat, it is generally of no use to go to that spot, as the fish will have moved. Therefore he times the distance and simultaneously the direction and the speed of the fish, being a sequence of distance checks and goes straight to the spot of expected arrival.
Relative to such a complicated operation, synchronizing with a human being must be just a piece of cake for Dusty.

Jan Ploeg

Date Posted: 05/08/2002
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