Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February is Dolphin Love Month – Being Part of the Pod

One of the most exciting incidents in my life took place in the Sea of Cortez. I was kayaking up a deep, narrow channel when a pod of at least 100 dolphins came up behind me and swam all around me. The chuffing air puffing rhythmically from their blow holes as the arced with powerful grace in synchronicity all around me for about fifteen minutes was incredibly exciting. For a few fleeting moments I was a part of the pod. It gave me the real sense of a connection with the natural world. They soon were gone and off to a party I wasn’t invited to, but I will always cherish that incident.

There is a big difference in swimming with captive trained dolphins then an encounter with those in the wild. In captive situations with dolphins that are trained and used to interacting with humans people enjoy a much more intimate contact. At the Kiwalo Basin Marine Lab in Hawaii, Lou Herman has been training and testing dolphins for decades. He has learned that they are great mimics. If you roll over in the water they will. Even if you are not in the water they will take directions by imitating your movements. He has not broken the Rosetta code of their language, of clicks and bleats, but he is definitely communicating with them with hand and verbal signals.

He has found that dolphins are highly adaptable and clever. They will admire themselves in mirrors indicating self-awareness. They can understand numerous hand and voice signals and have cognitive skills that are much more advanced than even the chimp. There are 2,000 different sentences that they understand and will respond too. They also have their own language! Bleeps, whistles, clicks make up a constant conversation they have with one another. Each dolphin has his own identifying whistle, just as we have a name. Their language is not just made of words it is made of touch and they intuit a good deal in their tribal interactions.


  1. This is so neat. I don't think I've ever seen so many together at one time.