Sunday, March 29, 2009

Divided By An Ocean

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars and so on -- whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man -- for precisely the same reasons. - Douglas Adams

I really miss Douglas Adams. He was the first writer that I ever really appreciated, and probably planted the seeds for my, er, interesting sense of humor, back when I was a wee laddie. Besides writing the amazing Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Dirk Gently series, he was a rabid atheist and environmental activist. If you possess any sense of humor, go read his stuff if you haven't already.

Spinner Dolphins sometimes accompany boats here when we are out in the lagoon. Usually they are the most interested when we are going pretty fast, because that apparently provides the best bowriding experience. Bowriding, for those of you unfortunate enough to not have been able to see wild dolphins close up, is when dolphins swim just ahead of the bow of a ship, usually just a few feet from the boat. To them, this apparently feels awesome. People, who have wheels, wars, weapons, etc., will never be able to swim like a dolphin, and we will never no what, exactly, this is like.

I have always respected and dolphins more than most other mammals. The spinner dolphins are so named for their habit of leaping completely out of the water, rapidly spinning the entire time. I don't know how they do it, but its pretty impressive. Watching the calves do it is heartbreaking.......the universe has conceived of few things that are cuter. It is established, although not well understood, that they are extremely intelligent animals. They are generally curious about people, and are quite friendly. To make things interesting, there are several cases each of dolphins killing people, and conversely going out of their way to save people's lives. Last year I read a legit article about a bottlenose dolphin that approached a couple men off a shallow beach. One of the men attempted to insert a cork into its blowhole, and the dolphin promptly killed him by ramming his chest with its snout (they are known to kill sharks in this manner). I cant find a link now to that article for the life of me, but it was one of the better things Ive read.

Of course, people are responsible for killing many thousands of dolphins every year all over the world, either intentionally or by drowning them in nets intended for other fish. The tuna fishery is suspected for killing off half the population of Spinner Dolphins in the Eastern Pacific alone. The dolphins are probably upset by this, and questionable antics like sticking corks into their blowholes may test their patience.

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