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Saint Augustine, FL
The purpose of this blog is to update stories from The Voice of the Dolphins and to tell some of the amazing stories that did not make it into the book. Please visit our website www.hardyjonesdolphins.com

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spotted Dolphins Meet Underwater Piano


In 1978 we sailed out to meet a pod of spotted dolphins we'd be told about by a treasure diver. After two days of sailing we found the school, made contact and swam with them on a glorious late afternoon. Our next approach to establish contact was to put an underwater "piano" in the water. The results were phenomenal and opened a relationship that has lasted more than thirty years.
The following sequence comes from The Voice of the Dolphins. 

As Steve prepared his gear, Ray went back to bail out the whaler and found a dead barracuda in the bottom of the boat. No one could explain how a barracuda might have gotten there. We hadn’t been fishing. Could it have jumped in by accident? Then I noticed the dead fish had a set of teeth marks on its dorsal side behind the head that matched the shape of a dolphin jaw. The only possible answer seemed to be that one of the dolphins had somehow killed it and placed it in our dingy. Was this the barracuda that had been annoying some of us the previous afternoon? Could the dolphins be concerned about our safety or even our state of mind? Was it a joke or a display of their powers? That mystery would last several years before later events led to a plausible answer.
The camera team put on scuba gear and slipped into the water. John lowered what we called “the piano” over the side to Steve, who was worried the rise and fall of the swells would slam his precious instrument against the hull and damage it before he could put it to use. The instrument was essentially a keyboard attached to a synthesizer with an underwater speaker clipped to the side. This was housed in Plexiglas, just like underwater cameras of the day. Steve held it in his hands. Nothing connected him to it except a line from his scuba tank. The contraption was about the size of an accordion. It weighed nothing when in the water but was slightly awkward and subject to the currents.
He pushed off from the side of the boat, exhaled, and descended, regulating his breathing to provide air to power the instrument. Although there were no dolphins in sight, Jack and Jim assumed positions to film whatever happened.
Steve was kneeling on the bottom at a depth of about eighteen feet when he began playing. A couple of minutes passed, and nothing happened. I was looking around and wondering whether I should associate myself with this bizarre undertaking. Five minutes passed. Steve was still playing, but I was already shaking my head and mumbling to myself that I’d never really thought this music business would work. I walked to the bow . . .
A squadron of dolphins appeared, moving at phenomenal speed, flying more than swimming. They covered three hundred yards in a matter of seconds, and when they reached Albury’s  bow, they dove, wheeling and turning around the source of the music.
For Steve their arrival came as a complete surprise. The film footage Jack shot shows him snapping his head up and left as the dolphins flew past him like fighter jets on a strafing run. He changed his music instantly from fugue to a kind of polka, and pushed off the sand to swim about six feet above the bottom. The dolphins took up positions just ahead of him and matched their speed to his as though they were enjoying the show. Before long, dolphins and humans had calmed, and if you didn’t think too hard, all that was happening was that a man with an underwater piano was playing a concert for a school of dolphins thirty miles from the nearest land.
Aboard Albury, all we could see were rippling dark shapes against the white sand bottom. But it was clear that the dolphins were staying very close to Steve. And the cameras were rolling.
A group of four young dolphins swam slowly just in front of the Plexiglas box, leaving only long enough to rise to the surface for a breath of air, then gliding back to be near the music. Six older dolphins swam in the mid-water, curious but unwilling to approach as closely as the juveniles. They kept up a steady but relaxed stream of clicks and whistles, occasionally flicking their tail flukes and whistling with some energy. Steve felt they were attempting to interact with his music through their vocalizations but he couldn’t be sure. The sounds dolphins make are at the upper range of human hearing and we register only a tiny fraction of their vocal output. In addition, it’s difficult to determine which dolphin is vocalizing at any given moment. Sound travels five times faster in water than it does in air, so the ability we normally have to directionalize is lost.
After half an hour of hard breathing, Steve returned to Albury for a fresh tank of air along with the cameramen who needed to reload. Scuba tanks were changed and camera housings dried and opened so magazines could be swapped out.
The dolphins lingered around our boat roughhousing among themselves. Steve came on deck. He didn’t want to wrestle with the underwater piano any further. Now he wanted to sing into a microphone connected to underwater speakers hanging from the boat’s starboard side. It would be another experiment. He crooned a few phrases. We looked up and the dolphins had vanished. Steve looked very hurt. But at least we were learning what dolphins like and don’t like.
With the dolphins gone, Captain Mike began to organize us for the return to Marsh Harbor. As we hauled anchor and took up an easterly course, I stared at the unbroken, featureless surface of the sea. At an earlier time, I might have described the scene as desolate, but now I knew that beyond this looking glass was a world peopled by friendly and curious dolphins.
I remember little of the return trip to Marsh Harbor. Michael and I were convinced that we had a fantastic film in the can. Nothing like this had ever been filmed before. But more than that, my thoughts were of the dolphins themselves. Visions of individual faces and memories of moments of contact played behind my eyes as I stared, without focusing, at the sea, the outside world barely a distraction.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Years After the Cove - Taiji Still Hunting Dolphins






 By Hardy Jones, photo by Dieter Hagman, Atlantic Blue

Nearly two years have passed since The Cove won an Academy Award. There was great hope that the force of the film would end the killing at Taiji. It has not. Fishermen continue to “harden” the cove. A new slaughterhouse has been built, indicating the fishermen have no intention of stopping their brutal business. They believe, according to a highly knowledgeable Japanese expert, that they have “defeated The Cove.” There are some noteworthy changes at Taiji this fall. The number of dolphins killed is significantly down and the main victims have been Risso’s Dolphins. We are investigating why this is so. It may be that warming ocean temperatures are redistributing dolphin prey. Where the prey goes dolphins must follow. BlueVoice is investigating.

The following is a report from Dieter Hagmann, German director of AtlanticBlue and admin for BlueVoice’s European website. BlueVoice contributed funds to Dieter’s mission.

Dieter Hagmann Taiji Report 11/11

I think the new constructions are a reaction to the observation from the last season, especially the observation with the hidden camera in January this year. http://bluevoice.org/webfilms_killingattaiji.php
The new tarp area in front of the old one is for me a note that the fishermen plan to extend the protection of the cove. According to my observations, the new tarps are not in use until now. Perhaps the new tarps will only be used for big slaughters in the future.

A further new construction is the area on the left side of the cove. It consists of metal posts and wire mesh. On the top there are wooden slats. The fisherman had big problems with jumping dolphins in this area in the past. I believe that the reason for this construction is to avoid the dolphin jumping on the rocks in this area. I documented this several times, last in January this year. Especially the Striped Dolphins have the behavior to jump on the rocks in panic. I think the fishermen will do anything to avoid cruel records and documentations. Both constructions - the new tarp rows and the new construction wall on the left will help the fisherman in future to obstruct the documentations. Additionally I will send you a picture with the entrance door of the cove area. This door is also new constructed and over two meters high.

It seems to me that the fisherman will continue the killing in the future.

My work in Taiji was difficult. I was observed every day by police. The police checked me several times on the tsunami hill or in the area next to the hill. Two times they controlled (searched) my body for illegal devices. They found nothing... It is not forbidden to go on the tsunami hill, but it is not allowed to go behind the fences on tsunami hill. The police have seen me countless times on the hill, but never in an illegal action.

Hardy’s question:
“It seems all they are only killing are Risso’s dolphins. Do you know why that might be. Also the number of dolphins killed is very low."

According to my observations so far only Risso's dolphins were caught and killed. On 13 November, however, two rough-toothed dolphins trapped but not killed. They were released (no license to kill).

Hardy note: After Dieter's writing a pod of Striped Dolphins was massacred.

Why only Risso's dolphins? I do not know. I'm sure that other species are not spared. Maybe time will only be won until the conversion work completed in the cove. Until then, perhaps only Risso's dolphins are killed. Risso's dolphins are not "Flipper"-dolphins ... you know what I mean ...

Hardy Note: It is possible that changing water temperatures are causing other species – bottlenose and pilot whales – to seek food in areas away from Taiji. We can only pray. If you read my Blog on Iki you’ll have seen that dolphins, once so plentiful at Iki Island, Japan are no longer found there. http://hardyjonesdolphins.com/blog.html October 3, 2011

Yesterday I sent you a video with my best scenes from Taiji. I hope you have no problem to download the file (1 GB). You can use the video for your work.

Hardy: Great thanks to Dieter for his courage and tenacity

Hardy Note: will be posting this video shortly
 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dolphin Altruism: Dolphins Save Me From Hammerhead Shark

The following video and blog are recounted in my book The Voice of the Dolphins. They document four spotted dolphins protecting me from a hammerhead shark. This material is posted in support of PETA's lawsuit to expand the rights of killer whales. 


video


Perhaps the most compelling evidence of how the dolphins felt about us came in 1985 late in the afternoon after a day of filming. Howard Hall, Julia, and other members of the underwater crew had climbed aboard the Zodiak that covered us as we worked at any distance from the main boat. I lingered at the surface, enjoying the delirious late afternoon light, my camera hanging in my right hand. The blue skies above held huge, gleaming white cumulous clouds, and toward the western horizon, blazing orange rays of sunlight shone out of the sea. The water temperature was in the high eighties. I lay on my back and experienced bliss.
Half a dozen young spotted dolphins, including a band of juveniles we’d named the Gang of Four, swam slowly over the sandy bottom thirty feet below. Occasionally, one dolphin would bite another on the tail and begin a brief, friendly tussle consisting of darting, twisting, and jaw snapping. But mostly they were grazing for bottom fish.
In the distance, at the limit of visibility, another sleek, gray creature appeared, swimming in an unusual, sine-wave manner and hugging the bottom. Its tail was not stroking up and down; it was slashing from side to side. The tail fin was vertical, and the head broad and flat. This wasn’t a dolphin. It was a very large Atlantic hammerhead shark, one of the few shark species that will attack humans. The shark moved toward me, angling first to one side then the other as though following a scent, probably mine. It was swinging its eyeballs, stuck out on the extremities of the head, so as to see its target first with one eye, then the other, perhaps to gauge distance. I didn’t feel comfortable presenting the hammerhead with the sight of my dangling legs, so I jackknifed and dove toward the bottom, raising my camera. Not only was this a unique chance to document the behavior of dolphins around sharks but raising the camera also served to put some metal between the fast-approaching predator and me.
The shark was grayish brown and about eleven feet long. I could judge its size easily because it was twice the length of the subadult dolphins swimming nearby. It undulated across the bottom, its movements now excited and menacing. I’d been diving with hammerheads in the Pacific on numerous occasions and had never felt threatened, but Atlantic hammerheads have a nasty reputation, and this one displayed the agonistic postures that precede an attack.
I hung in the water five feet over the bottom, and sooner than usual, my lungs began to ache for air. In a moment, I’d have to return to the surface. The shark turned directly toward me and accelerated with a flick of its tail. It happened so quickly that I could only react by pulling my camera tight against my body, poised to thrust it against the shark’s sensitive rostrum if it struck at me. I turned the camera on.
Suddenly the undersea world came alive with high-pitched whistles and intense sonar bursts. Two juvenile dolphins, Chopper and Stubby, appeared over my left shoulder. I flinched as I felt the wash they created streaking through the water straight for the hammerhead. In an instant, two buddies joined them, bolting in from the right.
The Gang of Four worked as a unit, diving and turning in unison like a squadron of fighter planes flying precision maneuvers.
The hammerhead saw the onrushing dolphins and, looking harassed and perplexed, jerked to the side, away from me. With powerful beats of their tail flukes, the dolphins launched themselves toward the shark’s head, clicking and whistling intensely, turning away only at the last instant. Again and again the juvenile dolphins dived at the hammerhead, mobbing it the way sparrows do a hawk, using sonar bursts to attack the shark’s lateral lines, a highly sensitive component of the shark sensory system, disorienting the huge fish.
The shark now wanted nothing more than to escape from this sudden torment. It turned one way then another but the Gang of Four were allowing it to move only in one direction—away from me. The hammerhead disappeared into the blue-green distance, and the dolphins, now tremendously excited, swam for the surface to do a series of victory leaps. One after another, they launched themselves through the surface, reentering instants later. After perhaps half a dozen leaps, Chopper cruised up to me, whistling intensely. I swam with him at the surface, trying my best to move in a way that showed the same kind of exuberance he’d displayed, but my human body dragged in the water and he had to restrain himself to stay with me. He was too excited to maintain the slow pace and darted off with his friends.
I was frankly glad to have footage of the dolphins saving me from the hammerhead. Without it, there might have been quite a bit of skepticism about this event. Some people just don’t want to admit animals are capable of altruism.  
The Voice of the Dolphins is available at Amazon: http://amzn.to/klnDw0 Kindle: http://amzn.to/pVszfc
Enhanced version with embedded video is at iTunes/iBooks
http://bit.ly/nmb5v4 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Dolphins at Cancer Risk from Pollutants

Genetic Links between Toxins and Cancer 

by Hardy Jones

The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) has published a report that describes a genetic link between environmental toxins and bone disease in multiple myeloma, a form of blood/bone cancer. Once considered a disease of the elderly, and a rare one at that, myeloma is increasingly being diagnose in patients under 45. The big question is "why, when many cancers are being reduced in incidence, is myeloma increasing and penetrating lower age groups?"

One possible explanation is the increase in environmental toxins. But what is the connection between the toxins and the disease?

Researchers with the IMF gene bank (Bank on a Cure) have identified changes in SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that are part of DNA sequences. These changes reduce a person's ability to process chemical toxins such as Dioxin and may lead to cancer.

The finding, published in the latest issue of the journal Leukemia, authored by Dr. Brian Durie, chair of the IMF, - http://www.myeloma.org - provide a possible link between myeloma and environmental toxins.

As these toxins rise in the marine food chain we are seeing more cases of cancer in dolphins, types of cancer never before identified in these marine mammals. Dolphins should be seen as sentinels warming us to the dangerous levels of pollution accumulating in our oceans.  For full press release on this subject go to http://bluevoice.org/news_issuescontaminants.php.

If we analyse the status of disease and pollution in dolphins worldwide we can conclude only that a global pandemic exists that now threatens dolphins and more and more is a menace to human health.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Chilling Tale of What Stopped Dolphin Slaughters at Iki, Japan

 


By Hardy Jones

The first awareness of dolphin slaughters in Japan came at Iki Island, located in the Straights of Tsushima, off southwestern Japan. In 1978 a news photographer from Mainichi Television took helicopter shots of a bay whose waters ran red with the blood of hundreds of dolphins. The pictures caused widespread outrage as they were transmitted around the world.  I saw those photographs and vowed to do something about it.

In 1979 and 1980, I led Howard Hall and other filmmakers to Iki to attempt to bring an end to the killing by exposing the barbarity on film. These efforts are recounted in my book, The Voice of the Dolphins. What was not included in the book was what happened in the years that followed.

In 1979 we filmed interviews with the islanders, particularly Mr. Harada Susumu, president of the young fishermen’s cooperative. But we did not witness a slaughter – only the grim aftermath of dead dolphin bodies

In 1980 Howard Hall and I filmed the unspeakable slaughter of hundreds of dolphins at Iki. I jumped the first flight off the island to get the footage to CBS News in Tokyo where it was satellited around the world.  After the huge international uproar caused by broadcast of the film we had taken of the butchery of bottlenose, pseudorca and Risso’s dolphins, Nagasaki prefecture withdrew the permit for the Iki Islanders to hunt dolphins later in 1980. There is an individual who claims he negotiated the end to the Iki Island dolphin massacres in 1982 but that was long after the permit to hunt dolphins had been withdrawn so there was nothing to negotiate. The people responsible for shutting down the dolphin hunts were those who stood in the bloody waters of Iki Island and filmed the killing; and Dexter Cate who kayaked into the killing zone at night and cut nets in an attempt to allow dolphins to escape. Dexter was arrested and spent months in a Japanese jail before being declared persona non-grata and expelled from Japan permanently. But his trial kept the world focused on the deadly events at Iki for months.

But for two occasions, one in the middle 1980s and one in 1994, the killings at Iki ended. In those two years special permits were issued to hunt dolphins at the request of the dolphin captivity industry. Dozens of dolphins went into captivity. Hundreds died.

In 2004 I returned to Iki and learned the full story of what had happened after I released the slaughter film. I tracked down Mr. Harada, whom I’d met in 1979. He told me that in the day after I left Iki in ‘79 (to get the film footage safely to CBS News in Tokyo) more than 200 journalists had descended on the island. Iki Island became infamous worldwide – a symbol of brutality to animals and shame for Japan. This massive media turn out was part of what caused the permit to capture dolphins to be withdrawn in 1980.

During my 2004 visit I videotaped an interview with the former head of the Katsumoto Fishing Cooperative, the organization that carried out the dolphin hunts, I learned a perverse irony – where once thousands of dolphins migrated by the island, today there are none. More perversely still, the fishermen who had once attempted to eradicate dolphins now wish they had could find and catch them for the lucrative aquarium trade. But there are none. Dolphins have vanished from the waters off Iki. And why is that?

Is it because the fish stocks that constituted dolphin prey have been decimated forcing the dolphins to seek food elsewhere? Is it because warming waters around the island have changed prey distribution and thus moved the dolphins elsewhere? Is it possible the dolphins learned to avoid the waters off Iki Island? Or is it because the dolphins that once migrated past Iki were simply wiped out? Any or all of these is possible.

Another shocking revelation came from the union official Sakae Hemmi and I interviewed in 2004. Standing in a room whose shelves and tables were covered with every imaginable form of dolphin statuette, plate, cup, kite or statue, he said the true reason they stopped hunting dolphins was that it was too costly to bury them. “Burying hundreds of dolphins is not cheap.” My mind chilled at the words. So the tale of what really ended the killing at Iki mimics Rashomon. Everyone sees the story through their own lens, the focus defined by memory or loss of it, ego, and fund raising strategies. And in some cases the pursuit of the truth.

My purpose in writing this blog is to illustrate the complexity of westerners trying to bring about change in Japan. More than a year after the tsunami of protest brought about by the film The Cove, dolphin hunts are still carried out at Taiji. After countless petitions and calls for boycotts the killer boats still sortie after dolphins.

Where I am putting my efforts and those of BlueVoice is into testing dolphin meat and publishing the results in order to drive down the market for the meat and make the drives financially unviable.

The story of our work at Iki in 1979 including lessons for those fighting to end the dolphin hunts in Japan is in The Voice of the Dolphins. http://hardyjonesdolphins.com/

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chronology of Efforts to End Dolphin Slaughter at Taiji


                                                  Photo by Dieter Hagmann



by Hardy Jones

This posting attempts to cover only events at Taiji, deliberately omitting what occurred at Iki and Izu during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I welcome any additions or corrections by email.

Admittedly this chronology is heavy in references to BlueVoice due to the fact that I am most familiar with our work. Again, I invite additions and corrections from informed sources.

In 1980 Howard Hall and Hardy Jones, while en route to Iki Island to film a dolphin slaughter, learned of the capture of 200 melon-headed whales (actually a species of dolphin) at Taiji, Japan. They brought their cameras to Taiji and were able to effect the release of all the melon-heads.

In 1999 the massacre of a group of bottlenose dolphins at Futo came to the attention of CBS News. Hardy Jones was interviewed on the subject and seeing the ghastly footage decided to return to Japan to see what might be done to end the dolphin killing.

In 2001 Hardy met Sakae Hemmi, of Japan’s Elsa Nature Conservancy, and the two worked together at Taiji and Futo to end the dolphin killing. They returned each year, in some years accompanied by photographer Larry Curtis, during dolphin hunting season with Hardy filming and Sakae gathering data.

During the early 2000s Environmental Investigation Agency sent representatives to Taiji who were treated very roughly.

In 2002 Hardy’s film, When Dolphins Cry, premiered on National Geographic Channels worldwide. It portrayed the killing of dolphins at Taiji and the story of the conversion of Izumi Ishii from dolphin hunter to dolphin watch leader.

In 2003 representatives of Sea Shepherd went to Taiji. Two of their members cut nets holding dolphins in Hatagajiri Bay. Whether any dolphins escaped is an open question. But the act brought both international news coverage and heightened security at the killing cove.

2003 was also the first year of Ric O’Barry’s efforts to end the killing of dolphins at Taiji. He has returned to Taiji for extended periods each year since and later starred in the film The Cove.

In 2005 PBS broadcast Hardy Jones’ The Dolphin Defender, a film that included both the story of the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji and the beginning of dolphin watching at Futo.

During much of the first decade of the 2000s WDCS supported the work of BlueVoice in Japan and conducted outreach programs elsewhere in Japan to educate the Japanese public about the dolphin slaughter and the dangers of consuming mercury laden dolphin meat.

During the years 2007, 08, 09, 10 and 2011 German journalist Dieter Hagmann visited Taiji and brought back extraordinary footage of the brutality of the dolphins slaughter. His work appeared in TV-Stations: ARD, ZDF. Newspapers: SUN (British), Bild (German), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Associated Press (Japan), Zeeburg Nieuws (Netherland) Press Agencies: PRNewswire, asiaprnews, Reuters, CNW, DPA with many online publications.

Since 2006 BlueVoice, in conjunction with Elsa Nature Conservancy, has been conducting tests of dolphin meat for mercury and organic pollutants such as PCBs. Results have shown high to exceptionally high levels of these contaminants. Tests also showed extremely high levels of mercury in persons who consumed dolphin meat.

In 2007 surfing legend Dave Rastovich along with film star Hayden Pantierre paddled surf boards into Hatagajiri Bay and brought international attention to the situation at Taiji.

At roughly this time, a film crew organized by Louie Psihoyos began work on a film centered around Ric O’Barry and his crusade to stop the killing at Taiji. The result would be a documentary film named “The Cove.”

In 2008 a Japanese journalist, Hiroshi Hasegawa, received data developed by Elsa and BlueVoice that documented high levels of mercury in four dolphin-eating Taiji citizens. Hasegawa then conducted additional testing that found even higher numbers for mercury among the dolphin-eating population. The results were published in AERA, a major Japanese magazine. His article spurred the National Institute for Minamata Disease to propose testing citizens of Taiji for mercury. The tests showed that citizens of the town had very high levels of mercury but claimed they found no impact on health. That conclusion has been widely disparaged by international experts.

In 2010 the Psihoyos film, The Cove, won film festival after film festival culminating in winning an Academy Award. This film brought a tsunami of protest against the practice of killing dolphins and raised the issue around the world. Psihoyos and his cohorts have continued their efforts in Japan to end the dolphin slaughter and The Cove continues to reach audiences worldwide.

During the 2010 – 11 hunting season Sea Shepherd maintained a group of activists at Taiji known as the Cove Guardians. They provided web reporting throughout the entire period of the hunt.

In 2011 BlueVoice sponsored tests conducted by Elsa Nature Conservancy of dolphin meat from Okinawa and Taiji. The tests showed elevated levels of mercury and PCBs. The tests results have been widely disseminated in Japan.

At the beginning of the 2011 – 2012 dolphin hunting season Ric O’Barry organized a prayer vigil at Taiji and, along with associates such as Leilani Munter, provided information on the hunt during September.

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians also returned to Taiji and are reporting from the scene.

Despite these extensive efforts the hunt and slaughter continues.

Monday, September 12, 2011

MacIntosh to Dolphins. Do You Read Me?


The following blog is an excerpt from The Voice of the Dolphins. It's an account of our second effort in 2004 to communicate with dolphins by computer and yielded surprising results. For more on The Voice of the Dolphins go to http://hardyjonesdolphins.com.

The computer communication system John Ross had devised produced some interesting results during the final days of the trip. I joined John standing on the white sand bottom in about fifteen feet of water. Dolphins lazed around us. It seemed a silent world except for the inhalation and exhalation of our scuba tanks and some barely audible high frequency clicks and whistles from the dolphins. But when John passed me the frequency shifting headphones, what had seemed to be a piccolo turned into a full symphony orchestra. Once again, I realized that for dolphins, it’s not a silent world but rather a phenomenally rich three-dimensional acoustical universe, each sound conveying meaning, nuance, and vast amounts of information. Humans’ inability to hear dolphins is one of the reasons most experience them as mute.
John transmitted two kinds of calls from the computer. The first was a synthesized call similar in pitch to an actual dolphin whistle but was not the real thing. The dolphins returned that call with a perfect imitation, just as they had in 1978.
Then something surprising happened. John recorded dolphin vocal output and replayed those sounds to the dolphins. They responded not with mimicry but with an original phrase as though attempting to carry on the conversation. Of course, we didn’t know what they had said in the first place or what their reply was to the playback. I don’t delude myself into thinking that our efforts will somehow crack the code of dolphin communication. But there is a meta-message in what is taking place in those turquoise waters over brilliant white sand and that is that both species are interested in the interaction. That is the message and it is huge.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Did I Say to the Dolphins?

     It’s widely known that dolphins vocalize and hear at frequencies far higher than humans. They hear our yells and grunts when were in the water. I’ve even brought MacIntosh Computers into the water to project and record sounds. We’ve had some remarkable results with those efforts. But the most mind blowing reaction came from the dolphins when I brought a dog whistle into the water. Dog whistles create a sound that is higher than human hearing. They can be heard by dogs, but not humans. I thought this might intrigue the dolphins. It did.
     Normally I carry a pretty hefty movie camera with me which is necessary if you’re going to make films but it also cuts me off from much of the action as I peer through the lens. To use the dog whistle I had to grudgingly leave the camera behind.
     Dolphins were milling around our boat when I entered the water, paying no particular attention to us. I swam about 50 yards from the boat that was anchored in water fifteen feet deep on the western edge of the Little Bahama Banks. I put the whistle in my mouth, looked around, and blew.
     Instantly three young dolphins rocketed over to me and began swimming in extremely tight circles around me. The power and speed of their motion through the water shook me like a rag doll. It was astonishing. Then a large male raced over to me and began to jump directly in front of me. It truck me as a very aggressive action and I decided not to blow the whistle again.
     I swam for the boat yelling “get me my camera” but by the time I had it in hand the dolphins had disappeared. This is one of the most amazing encounters I’ve ever had with dolphins and I would NOT recommend anyone try it. As I said, the reaction in the dolphins seemed to be disconcerted and aggressive.