Bahamas 2000

Dolphins, dolphins and MORE dolphins!

 

Saturday was an extremely exciting and event-filled day for DCP on Bimini. It started bright and early, and already hot and humid, when we headed over to the Coral Reef II to join the Shedd Aquarium’s High School Marine Biology students. Onboard, Kel gave the students an informal lecture to teach them a bit about DCP itself, provide some information about the dolphin species they might encounter around Bimini, and brief them on how we perform photo ID. The class was an interactive audience, always engaged and ready to ask thoughtful questions. We are grateful to the students, the Coral Reef II crew and Shedd Aquarium for allowing us this chance to share our knowledge with them. Hope you guys have a great rest of your trip! 

 

Later in the day, Nicole prepped to head out on the boat. This time, Bimini Adventures had a private charter with two guests who ventured here to Bimini from Europe. The boat left at 1500, as has become our custom. The trip began with a snorkel stop at "Three Sisters" so that the pair could enjoy the beautiful reef life of Bimini. From what they shared with us once they were back on the boat, it was one of the most colorful reefs they've seen in all of their travels. They even saw two sharks, a nurse and a Caribbean reef, as well as a sizeable grouper and some stoplight parrot fish! 

 

Once everyone was settled on the boat, we began our search for dolphins. We drove for less than 20 minutes when Nicole spotted a group slightly to the west. As we approached, it seemed like this group might be a mix of Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. And as we got even closer, we realized that there were actually two separate groups. But as it turns out, the ones we believed to be bottlenose were just very large spotted dolphins with rather unique dorsal fins! Once we were right over the area where the group had been, we saw that there weren't just dolphins at the surface but there were also large clusters of them on the seafloor. It was hard to tell how many there were in total but it was clearly a lot! 

 

At this point, Captain Al felt that the dolphins were behaving appropriately for us to get in the water. It is typical that when we start an underwater encounter we cannot know how it will turn out--wild animals are rarely predictable. But this encounter was by far the most unexpected that we've ever had. As soon as we slipped off the boat and into the water, we saw that the cluster of dolphins at the bottom was a group of at least 45 dolphins! Right off the bat, Nicole recognized Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22), Swoosh (#36) with a calf, Cerra (#38), Niecey (#48) with a calf, Prince William (#64), Tim (#69), Leslie (#80) with a calf, Noodle (#94) with a calf, Milo (#96), un-named #98, and at least five adult male dolphins we know to be from the White Sand Ridge. Shortly into the encounter, we were joined by other recognizable dolphins including Romeo (#10) with a calf and un-named #101. It is also likely that Speedy (#78) was there but we will have to check the video to confirm. 

 

This encounter was incredible. The dolphins stayed near us for over an hour, swimming to the surface as a group, surrounding us as they checked us out to see what we were doing, then returning to the seafloor as a group. They continued this trajectory, making wide circles and barely paying us humans any attention. We watched a lot of all (or mostly all) male socio-sexual play and a lot of mother-calf interactions. We observed tons of pectoral fin-to-pectoral fin rubbing as well as pectoral fin-to-body contact. Many times, a few dolphins would rest their bellies and flukes on the seafloor and not move at all. A lot of dolphins came to the surface and then remained still, their bodies vertical, and just allowed themselves to float down to the bottom again. Occasionally, another dolphin would approach this drifting dolphin and poke with its rostrum. At one point, the entire group swam out of sight so Captain Al picked us up for a water and snack break.  

 

By this time, the giant group had split into two "smaller" groups. We decided to follow the older dolphins who had been a bit more vocal because the guests had brought a hydrophone with an amplifier to see if we could hear the vocalizations from the boat. It was really cool to hear the buzzing and whistling without knowing what was happening underwater! A short time later, we decided to try another encounter. This time it was with a group of about 20 who were mostly males, again including Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and the White Sand Ridge males. We did also see Swoosh (#36) hanging around with her calf. This group was even less interested in the human swimmers but they still stuck around the same spot for about 20 minutes, allowing us to observe their socio-sexual play and take lots of photos. Once they had swum out of view, we returned to the boat and decided to observe from there. It seemed as if the two groups had joined together once more and now they were on the move. Captain Al had to drive the boat at a pretty good speed to keep up. Suddenly, we realized that the original 45 dolphins had been joined by even more! From the boat we were able to recognize Stefran (#82) with her calf and un-named #102! Since these three weren't the only members of the new group, we knew we were now following at least 50 spotted dolphins!  

 

Even from the boat we saw some fun behaviors--a lot of leaping, bow riding and sargassum and leaf play. We even used the hydrophone once more and it seemed like one dolphin was checking it out because we heard some close and intense buzzing for a moment! It was getting late by this point so we decided to have one last underwater observation. This time we were in the water only a couple of minutes but it was a nice way to say "goodbye" to this group of spotted dolphins that had shared such an amazing day with us. As we headed home, a few juveniles rode the bow for a bit before "waving" us goodbye as they returned to their group. 

 

We could not have been happier as we made our way back to the dock. These guests will be heading out with Bimini Adventures again tomorrow--but how can we top the experience they had today?! We look forward to seeing what other adventures we might be able to have and we are excited to share them with you! 

 

Until then,

Nicole & Kel

 

Three Sisters and Tons of Spotteds

 

Thursday was the Sea Crest group's last day on the boat and it began with a 1430 departure. Nicole joined them on their dolphin search which was preceded by a snorkeling stop at the "Three Sisters". After enjoying the coral and beautiful fish around the big sister rock for a bit, as well as an up-close encounter with a tiny (but feisty) remora, we headed out on our regular route. About 20 minutes later we passed another local dolphin boat that had found a group of spotted dolphins. We waved to the boat captain as we continued on our way to look for other dolphins. 

 

About an hour later we came across a group of six juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins! They were being extremely playful, riding in the bow wake, leaping and chasing each other around near the boat. From the bow we were able to see that un-named #101 and #102 were there, as well as Paul (#99) and possibly #105. We observed these dolphins for about 40 minutes during which time they were joined by an adult and a calf. Then we made a brief attempt at a swim with this group before moving on to search for more dolphins on our drive back to the harbor.  

 

Thirty minutes into our journey home we found another group of spotted dolphins, this time 26 of them! From the boat, Nicole was able to identify Romeo (#10) with a calf (yay!), Stefran (#82) with a calf, Prince William (#64) and Cerra (#38). The sheer size of the group made it a challenge to get any more IDs from the boat! Fortunately, after a couple of failed attempts, we managed to collect some underwater observations of this group. During this encounter we were excited to see that Romeo (#10) was nursing a calf! Nicole also thinks she saw Milo (#96) and un-named #98--she'll have to check the video to confirm! 

 

After a little while, the large group of dolphins swam out of view. Captain Audley decided to take the boat in a wide circle to see if any playful dolphins would ride the bow while we watched from the water. As the boat passed the human swimmers, Nicole could see a dolphin swimming belly up in the bow wake. Knowing that a certain female spotted has been seen doing this ever since she herself was a calf, Nicole had a sneaking suspicion of who it might be. And sure enough, this dolphin broke out of the bow wake and swam towards the humans, along with a calf--we were able to identify her as Noodle (#94)! She and the calf hung around the humans for a few minutes, showing off interesting behaviors such as rubbing into the sand and chasing each other along the seafloor. Eventually, the pair swam out of view and we piled back onto the boat.  

 

We arrived at the dock a bit late but we could not have asked for a better final dolphin day for this group. We are so thankful to them for allowing us to join them on the boat and for asking us so many thoughtful questions about the dolphins and DCP's research. Hopefully we have inspired them to return to Bimini or to explore other marine species around the world. 

 

DCP researchers have the day off the boat on Friday but Saturday and Sunday should find them out on the water. We look forward to telling everyone about what we find! 

 

Until next time,

Kel & Nicole

 

A Fin-load of Dolphins

 

After spending the morning working on photo ID, Nicole set off with the tourist group at 1500 to search for dolphins. This time, Captain Audley was joining the group! Everyone was excited to have him back on Bimini. And for his first trip back, he must have had a premonition about where to look for dolphins because he found them less than an hour after setting out! At first we saw a group of four sub-adult and adult Atlantic spotted dolphins, possibly including Buster (#04). We observed this group from the boat for about 20 minutes when they suddenly seemed to slow down. Captain Al decided it might be a good time to attempt an underwater encounter so we geared up and slipped into the water.  

 

The dolphins did not seem very interested in the human swimmers so we all thought it would be a very brief encounter. Suddenly, this group of four turned back--and became 17! The group was primarily composed of sub-adult and adult dolphins, most of whom were male. Nicole was able to identify a few of the members of the group including Buster (#04 – in this busy image!), Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78), several adult males that are from the White Sand Ridge spotted dolphin group, and possibly Milo (#96) and un-named #98. There was also one mother-calf pair that stuck near the larger group but they did not directly interact with the male dolphins for most of the time we observed them.  

 

Throughout the swim we saw some fascinating behaviors. The mother-calf pair swam down to the seafloor and the adult buried her flukes in the sand. The little calf then rubbed its sides and fins in the sand nearby. We also observed the large group of males play-fighting and engaging in socio-sexual activity. We were able to stay with this group of dolphins for an entire hour before they decided to swim away! Nicole collected so much video data that she even filled the memory card! We're excited to take a look at the data and find out what else we can learn about this group of spotted dolphins. 

 

Even though it was a bit earlier than usual, we decided to begin a slow drive back to the harbor and continue searching for dolphins. We did not come across another group but everyone was happy and satisfied with our amazing experience so it was ok! We are excited to see what tomorrow might bring! 

 

Until next time,

Nicole & Kel

 

 

 

The Wonders of Bimini Road

 

Tuesday morning found us doing office work as usual. Around 12:30, however, they headed over to the Sea Crest Hotel where this week's dolphin group is staying. Everyone was interested in learning more about the dolphins around Bimini so we joined them for a lunchtime chat. The group asked many good questions about Atlantic spotted dolphins in general, the individual dolphins of Bimini, the research DCP conducts here and much more!  

 

After the noon-time chat, everyone set off to prepare for the boat which would be departing a bit early at 1430. Kel stayed on land while Nicole joined the group on their search for dolphins. This trip began with a stop at the "Bimini Road" snorkeling spot which some people believe leads to the mystical city of Atlantis. The guests enjoyed a lovely snorkel here where they saw the unusual rocks of the road along with some beautiful reef fish, sea fans and coral. After enjoying the site for about an hour, we set off on the quest for dolphins.  

 

We headed away from the island for almost two hours but when we still had not seen anything we had to turn back. And we continued searching. And searching. And we still could not spot anything! Unfortunately, this was one of those trips that just would not grant us the chance to observe dolphins. Everyone stayed in good spirits, though, aided by the natural wonders they saw at Bimini Road. We are all looking forward to the trip tomorrow which will hopefully be full to the brim with dolphins! 

 

Wish us luck!

Nicole & Kel

 

A Wonderful Way to Celebrate the Fourth!

 

Fourth of July Monday started out with data processing and other office work. Later in the morning, Nicole took a brief break from her work to visit some adorable 3 week old kittens with Kaila. They were precious!  

 

By 1500, everyone was ready to set off on our quest for dolphins. Unfortunately, due to some not-safety-related boat delays, we did not leave until closer to 1600. Everyone remained in good spirits, however, and we were rewarded by finding a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins less than an hour after setting out! This group included Stefran (#82), Swoosh (#36), Leslie (#80) and likely Niecey (#48--to be confirmed in DCP's still photos). In addition to these four older dolphins there were four very playful calves! These youngsters took turns riding the bow wake, floating head up or fluke up and poking each other with their rostra. We also saw a calf actively rubbing its face against Leslie's pectoral fin, as well as a calf nursing from possibly-Niecey. Analyzing these observations from our human perspective, this group almost seemed to be sharing a "play-date."  

 

After about an hour of observing these possible mother-calf pairs from the boat, three more spotted dolphins joined the group, maybe including Buster (#04). Twenty minutes later we attempted an underwater encounter. When we entered the water a pair of dolphins swam by and simply kept on going so we quickly returned to the boat. The second time we got in the water we were able to observe the dolphins for over half an hour! This encounter gave us a perfect illustration of the spotted dolphins' fission-fusion society--there were about 10 dolphins when we entered the water, then at least 18, then a smaller group of 5, and so on. During all of this group shifting, we were able to recognize Stefran, Leslie and Swoosh once more, as well as Romeo (#10), Lil' Jess (#35) and possibly Freckles (#15) who were all seen with calves! We are excited to check the video and still photos to see who else was there! 

 

Despite the late departure, we were able to return to the dock on time after enjoying our observations of the dolphins. We were all smiles as we climbed back on land and headed off for dinner. We cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring! 

 

We hope everyone in the USA enjoyed their Fourth of July holiday weekend as much as we did! 

 

Happy Independence Day, America!

Kel & Nicole 

 

Worth the Rain and the Wait

 

Saturday was a (much-deserved) rest day for the DCP researchers. Then on Sunday the next Sea Crest dolphin tour group arrived on Bimini. This group is composed of 14 guests from different parts of the US. 

 

After a morning of catch-up on office stuff, we prepared to head out on the boat with the guests at 1500. As we pulled out of the dock there were ominous storm clouds to the northwest that let out a deep rumble of thunder every once in a while. Despite the threat of a storm, Captain Al knew that these clouds were moving away from Bimini, and the radar did not indicate any more storms, so we decided to head out in search of dolphins anyway.  

 

As it turned out, the radar was not fully accurate, since weather is not 100% predictable (shocking!). After anchoring for about 30 minutes to do a gear check, we spent the next 2 hours driving in large circles in order to dodge the rain and lightning. At one point we had to endure an unavoidable rain shower. All of the erratic weather was worth it, however, because as we made our way back to the harbor Captain Al saw something far in the distance. At about 1830 we came across a group of 17 spotted dolphins! Since it was getting late, we only spent a few minutes watching this group from the boat before deciding to try underwater observations. A small group of guests decided to get in the water while Kel used the MVA and Nicole took still photos. The dolphin group was mostly composed of playful younger dolphins, including Inka (#93), un-named #101, #102 and possibly #105, though Tina (#14) and a few older individuals were also there. We will have to check our photos and video to see who else joined us! 

 

Our encounter lasted about 15 minutes because we had to head home once more. As we started driving, #102 and two other juveniles rode the bow for a few minutes. Suddenly, we saw another group of at least 15 spotted dolphins and 2 bottlenose just ahead of us. This group only joined the boat for a moment before continuing on their way. But two dolphins stuck around to ride the bow. They turned out to be Swoosh (#36) and a calf! After they left us we focused on getting back to the harbor. But we had a nice send off from another calf who came leaping over from the west! This dolphin did not stick around but it was wonderful to watch it for the brief moment. 

 

We got back to the dock a bit late but in high spirits. What will tomorrow bring for this new guest group? 

 

"Sea" you tomorrow!

Nicole & Kel

 

Giving back and saying goodbye

 

After breakfast on Thursday we headed to Radio Beach for a beach cleanup. Everyone grabbed a buddy and collected garbage and debris--as a group we collected 9 bags of trash! It is nice that the students are able to give back to Bimini and the environment that gave them so many wonderful experiences over the past 12 days. Then everyone enjoyed the beach one last time with a luxurious cool-off swim! 

 

Once they had dried off, the students headed back to the common room to discuss some final details about the course. After that there was a bit of free time before lunch during which some people popped down to the store to buy some adult beverages for dinner and others headed to the Bimini Museum to learn some interesting facts about this tiny island. They were surprised to discover that the closing scene of the movie The Silence of the Lambs was filmed just down the road from the Sea Crest Hotel and Marina where they have been staying while on Bimini! 

 

The final lunch of the trip included a special surprise--conch fritters and crack conch (similar to fried clam strips) prepared by the one and only Miss Sarah Lee. There were even plain fritters so that the vegetarians could share in the experience! Once everyone had indulged in the Bahamian culinary experience, we got ready for the boat and left the marina at 1430.  

 

The group's last boat ride started out with a snorkel stop at “Shell Beach.” The students (and Dr. M) spotted some amazing creatures including a squid, an eagle ray, a nurse shark and many reef fishes. Back on the boat, a few students took turns diving and jumping off of the boat--Dr. M even wowed us with a cannonball!  

 

Once everyone was tired out from playing in the water, we began our usual course in the search of dolphins. After an hour and a half of scanning the choppy and cloud-shaded water, we finally came across a group of 3 spotted dolphins. We were not able to identify anyone from the boat but we did notice that the group included an adult, an older calf, and a juvenile and appeared to be traveling. We observed these dolphins from the boat for about 30 minutes before continuing on our way. About an hour later we noticed that there were multiple squalls around us, including one that had obscured the northern tip of North Bimini. Captain Kat took this as a sign for us to start heading home. Just as we approached the entrance to the channel we came across another group of spotted dolphins, this time a group of 6 including Lil' Jess (#35). Unfortunately, the squalls finally caught up to us so we all hid in the cabin as we made our way back to the marina.  

 

Back on dry land, everyone showered and got ready for our special last night on Bimini. Dinner was tortellini and pink sauce (which many students had never tried, but found that they liked!) with spicy chicken sausages. Once the dinner dishes were cleaned up, Kat and Kaila joined our group as we headed over to Big John's where they enjoyed different versions of the popular local drink, rum punch! It was a fun-filled evening to end a wonderful field course.  

 

Friday morning started bright and early with breakfast at 0700. By 0800 we shared a big group hug and then Kel and Nicole said goodbye to Dr. M and the EKU students who then made their way to the South Bimini airport. DCP is sad to see them go but we are very grateful for their limitless positivity throughout the past two weeks! We cannot thank them enough for investing in this experience and giving us the opportunity to share so much of Bimini and the dolphins with them. 

 

Our trip is "fin",

Kel & Nicole, on behalf of The Podfia (EKU 2016)

 

PS: And a big, big thank you to everyone who donated to our "Double Down on DCP" fundraiser! We raised over $1,300 and will now get a matching donation of $1,000 - woo-who! Forgot to donate? Don't worry - you can still contribute! Just click here.

 

It’s DolphFUN and games until someone loses a fluke

 

On Wednesday, some of us woke early for a morning walk. The big winner in this exercise was Ben, who found $120 on the beach! With no one around to claim it, he savored his good luck. Our class session was a discussion about ecotourism, bringing our conversation full circle from the first day. Kel shared (one of her many) soap boxes and we experienced our first Bimini power outage. Thankfully, it was short. We discussed our opinions about how to be “eco-tourists” and be as least harmful as possible.  

 

Some more of us met Tommy Saunders and others went to the beach and still others stayed in the cool to spare our skin from more sun. We dined on baked potatoes (a first for one of us!) and got the announcement that we were planning to have conch fritters and cracked conch tomorrow! We got ready for the boat and departed the dock at 1500. 

 

Just one hour into the trip, we saw a huge group of Atlantic spotted dolphins. We counted to 31 right away, but then got to 32! They were moving very fast, still some of them slowed enough for us to get in and observe them under water. It was really nice to see how far we have come with our free diving and overall comfort in the water. We’re chuckling as we realize we all have our “favorite” dolphins: Dom –Split Jaw (#22), Christine and Andrea are in love with Lil’ Jess (#35), Patrick and Kaelin are feuding over Tina (#14), Morgan – Inka (#93), Veronica – un-named #101, Tyler – Noodle (#94), Ben – Leslie (#80), Caitlyn – Paul (#99), Casey – Cerra (#38), Michelle – Speedy (#78) and Dr. M is waiting for photo-ID of her favorite adult. Yes – this group has seen all of these dolphins! 

 

In the midst of the whole day, we also saw a large loggerhead turtle. The dolphins paid it no mind as it dived down and out of sight. We came back “early” (barely!) and got ready for our last BBQ. We ate delicious burgers and dogs (thank you Kaila!) and Nicole’s Grandmother’s yellow rice (wink, wink, Kaiya – SHU 2015) leaving little room for animal crackers (a mature dessert choice). After dinner, some of us went to the beach to look for bioluminescence; we found a little and saw several shooting stars! The stars were absolutely amazing and the clear night only highlighted the lights (light pollution – ugh) of Miami. 

 

Let’s “sea” what’s in store tomorrow,

The Podfia (EKU 2016)

 

Shark Day: Hoo-Ha-Ha!

 

On Tuesday, we began with our yummy breakfast, the blog and some photo-ID. Morning break was early because lunch was early because today was Shark Day! But, there was a surprise in store, one that was about to be very appropriately foreshadowed… 

 

The boat departed at 1300 and as we were departing the harbor, some of us saw a spotted eagle ray leap out of the water! Since we were not searching for dolphins, we were allowed to lay down on the boat: it was amazing! Especially since some of us were sure to keep watch, in case we did see dolphins. We arrived at Honeymoon Harbor, our surprise location. Honeymoon Harbor is a small area on Gun Cay where our adventure began with a casual jump into the water with a barracuda. There were so many stingrays right away; we were all a little bit nervous. Tyler was busy feeding one stingray and another decided to see how his arm tasted! He has the love mark to prove it. Several others of us did get nibbled and sucked on, but these did not leave marks. While Veronica was taking a photo in one direction, a stingray casually swam past her, rubbing right up against her face! We all stopped keeping track of how long Kaelin was continually laughing as the stingrays tickled her feet. Casey got a stingray hug, as a ray wiggled right up her ventral side (her belly). Morgan asked them to back off – she has a three date rule! Check out this picture of Nicole trying her hand at using Captain Al's camera! We were soon joined by other marine friends: several nurse sharks and another barracuda. There was also a mystery shark, but we couldn’t tell what it was. On our return to the boat, the barracuda “stalked” us and one stingray snuck up on Andrea. As we got closer to the boat, we saw a group of nurse sharks “snoozing” under the boat! 

 

Once we were actually on the boat, we had snack on our way to the main destination. Dom is still talking about the Craisins: “I’m crazy for Craisins!” We arrived at Triangle Rocks, we asked all our scared questions about sharks biting people and Captain Al tried to tell us about his shark scar (not real!). He briefed us about what to expect and how to stay safe before baiting the sharks. Some of us were nervous, but we were all super excited to get in the water with three Caribbean reef sharks and one sharpnose. The largest reef shark was about six feet long! Sometimes they came really, really close to us. It was a little unnerving, but it was really cool to see animals to compare to the dolphins. The sharks are all about the slow cruise and it was amazing to be that up close and personal with them, even if eye contact with a shark is much different than with a dolphin! 

 

The ride home was “Suntan City” as the ladies in the group were taking advantage of the lack of datasheet and search duties! Back on land, Dom, Patrick, Ben and Nicole went to the beach while others of us felt too crispy for more sun. We all met back up in the common room for delicious mac-n-cheese, chicken and baked beans. We loved dinner, but still managed to keep room for ice cream dessert. After hours of observing Casey’s hair braiding school, Dom successfully graduated and braided Michelle’s hair. His clients are lining up… 

 

Today was a RAY of sunshine,

The Podfia (EKU 2016) 

 

PS: In case you missed it, that “Hoo-ha-ha” in the title is a reference to Finding Nemo.

 

Holy Mackerel!

 

On Monday morning, it was a large thunderclap that woke us! Soon our bellies were full, our blog was written and we were discussing mixed species interactions. We all agreed that people cannot put our personal/human expectations and social constructs onto dolphins, particularly when it comes to socio-sexual interactions and mating techniques. (For more on this, check out Dr. JustinGregg’s blog).  

 

Our boat trip departed at 1430 so that we could snorkel the biggest sister of the “3 Sister Rocks.” There was crazy cool wildlife here, with fish that let us get within centimeters of them! We saw a hound fish, a nurse shark, barracuda and maybe a soldier fish.  We took photographs around the arch, and practiced diving (now, everyone has been under water!). This site had more concentration of fish than we’d ever seen before. We could hear the parrotfish chomping away and saw lots of tiny jellyfish.  

 

We climbed aboard and began what turned out to be a long search for dolphins, but we realized that it only felt long because we saw them so quickly yesterday. As we were in the process of turning back toward shore, Captain Al came down from the tower and said the dolphins were right ahead! We resumed our path and soon there were two spotted dolphins and one was tossing a mackerel in the air! As we got closer we saw it carrying it in its mouth. There were two adults intermittently riding the bow, Tina (#14 – definitely looking pregnant) and another adult, who also looked pregnant: a Bimini bun in the oven! This was another timely example of females associating when in the same reproductive state, something we discussed in class just a few days ago. Also coming to the bow were two young juveniles, including un-named #102.  

 

We entered the water more unsure than usual if they would stick around because they were slowly on the move. But, much to our surprise, we had a great observation! When the largest group was near us, there was a lot of sargassum play – sometimes, the dolphins would carry the seaweed on their pec fin, drop it and then catch it on their flukes. There was also mutual object play – they took turns with the seaweed! Some of the sargassum chunks were quite large, and at other times, they would go after individual blades of sea grass. They were blowing lots of bubbles, and at one point, there was a big bubble burst which floated all the way up to us. Later, a youngster followed his bubbles up to the surface, swimming back into them. Some of us were watching from the boat and laughed at moments when the dolphin group was just at the edge of the humans and the humans couldn’t find them! 

 

The end of our encounter was all Tina (#14) and a young male. At one point, Tina rolled over and we had a really good view of her belly. We could tell that her belly overall was swollen, but so were her mammaries. We’d not seen this before! The young male was associating with Tina as if he was her calf, but with his first spots visible and Tina’s pregnancy, if it was Tina’s calf, he’ll be on his own soon! We, the students, had a chuckle when Tina and the calf/juvenile hid in Kel’s blind spot and we could see them but she couldn’t! Morgan had a “spiritual moment” with the younger dolphin, slowly lowering her camera so that she could savor the moment. Patrick declared his love for Tina, saying simply, “I have a girlfriend: Tina.” Sorry, ladies.  

 

On our late ride home (thank you crew!), three dolphins came racing to the bow. Three turned into eight and they seemed to be jockeying for position.  As they left the bow, they were leaping in our stern wake and a laughing gull came in to steal the show. Dom lovingly (well, maybe not) referred to the gull as a rat with wings. As we looked up at the gull in awe, with our mouths open, Captain Al suggested we close those mouths, to prevent a good luck deposit. Back at the dock, we got ready quickly for our marina BBQ. It was so delicious and some of us tried Kalik, the local beer, before once again falling into brownie bliss. After a noisy game of spoons, we headed back to our rooms and called it a night. 

 

Today wasn’t a fluke,

The Podfia (EKU 2016)

 

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Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985
USA

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