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Journals 2003/2004

Elizabeth Gibbs
Thompson Middle School, Newport, Rhode Island

"Impact of human activities on dusky dolphin behavior and population biology"
Field Station, Kaikora, New Zealand
July 13 - 25, 2003

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Friday, July 18, 2003

To convey what happened on this gorgeous Friday needs multimedia and sensurround sound. There were thousands of dolphins stretching as far as the eye can see-leaping, flipping, porpoising, riding the bow wave, jumping synchronously, sometimes six or seven at once; sounds of splashing and quick exhalations; cold and wind; the smell of the sea; the rocking and bouncing of the boat, the slap of the water against the hull. The incredible energy of the dolphins is perhaps the hardest thing to convey.

I lucked out. I had been schedule to go on the Dolphin Encounter boat and was even in the car when Sangeetha needed to switch from the small boat because she wasn't feeling well. So Louise, Jeanie and I got to go out on the small boat.

We did one behavioral survey. I was recording, and it was hard enough to keep track of the data being shouted out, sometimes rapid-fire. "Bout of four noisy leaps!" "Bout of five noisy leaps!" "Bout of 15 flips!" "Social rub!" "There's a tail slap!" "Belly to belly!" One right after the other. The two-minute intervals went by so fast, ending each by recording boat speed, formation (configuration the pod was in) and spread (how far apart they were), direction, and whether the dolphins were resting, traveling, feeding, or milling. At one point, we had a pod slice-the whole pod started traveling through the water fast. The energy was enormous; splashes everywhere as dolphins flew through the air, leaped and landed noisily back in the water. The porpoising dolphins off the bow seemed to fly ahead of us.

I wanted to touch a dolphin. Tim said that they feel like a wet tire. Louise was able to run her hand over a passing fin, but I didn't touch them. So I settled for hanging off the bow, gazing into the water, watching the dolphins run under and around the bow and wanting to jump in and join them.

We got lucky and saw one of two sperm whales that were up. It's hard to fathom (ha,ha) their size.

We had to go in because it was getting dark, but didn't want to go. Louise said, "Do we have to have a day off?" I would have loved to have that day just keep going.

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