Friday, June 20, 2008

A Close Encounter

For an instant, as I reached the top of a swell on a boogie board, I could see a distance of about 3 wavelengths farther out, maybe 30 yards. A body and dorsal fin, its tip far higher in the air than I, was in mid-arch above the water. How had this creature sneaked so close? I normally see such bodies from a great distance. But here I was aware of its fishness (though I know it’s a mammal), its potential to thrash with that solid fuselage of muscle and knock a jaw out of joint, it’s solid thickness that could have easily upended the wave kayaker nearby without even noticing him. Sun glistened on its wet back while its fin and underside were in shadow. It looked brown rather than gray or blue. I exclaimed and raised myself as high as I could on the board, but only one other appeared farther out, its back barely breaking the surface.

Dolphins are like elementary particles. They flash into appearance in a spot, then are gone again. You have to skip your gaze far ahead of that spot and hope you are looking at where they are if they appear again.

I called out to the wave kayaker. “Was that between you and me?” I said. He said he thought so. He said lots had just passed right by his boat. “I wasn’t too comfortable with that,” he said.

It's too bad girlfriend Svetx was not there to be so close to her totem animal. She's taken me out to look at dolphins many times and places already.

These dolphins did not reappear. They did not stay to protect us. They were Coast Guard dolphins merely spot-checking for shark terrorists. They had a whole coast to roam, and they were on the move, linearly, their invisible path removing them from sight though they had hardly passed us.

1 comment:

Svetx said...


Oh, here's your random and weird dolphin fact of the day (from

"A wrinkle to add to one of my favourite neurobiology factoids: Dolphins may not sleep with one side of their brains at a time after all [1]. Or, rather, they do sleep one side at a time (unihemispherically), but they may also sometimes let both sides sleep at once, albeit very briefly.

It’s not just dolphins who sleep with one side of the brains at a time. Other sea-sleeping mammals (whales, seals and manatee), many birds and maybe reptiles, like crocodiles, sleep unihemispherically too [1]."

Oh yeah, and Flipper has a dark side. Dolphins are now notorious for demonstrating murderous urges toward members of their own species from different pods. It seems that humans aren't the only mammals engaging in gang-related violence.

(Hey Tipper, maybe we can't blame it all on video games and rap music afterall . . .) I wonder if all dolphins kill other dolphins or if there is a special brand of pscycho/sociopath dolphin that didn't get enough love from mom & dad as a baby. Something to ponder next time we frolic in the waves.

Hang 10!

Your gal pal,