Intimidating dolphins

An excellent trip, and another run-in with a gang of subadult males

IMAGE: A stunning Mikura sunset

Ichiro-sensei was kind enough to pick up some researchers for a quick dolphin trip after his usual Saturday morning tourist boat survey. It proved to be quite productive – we got some good shots of a group of mothers and their calves. #086 (Hamu-chan) and her calf Hamlet were there again – I am always glad to see them. A large group of around 20 subadult males was spotted not too far from the pier, and we saw a lot of social/aggressive activity from the surface. Upon entering the water, it was evident that we were smack in the middle of another dolphin fight. This one was not as serious as the last fight, but there was some biting and chasing going on. At one point, the entire group took notice of our presence in the water and headed straight for us. I am quite used to rambunctious subadult males getting really curious and swimming really close at this point, but for a split second, the sight of 20 dolphins suddenly turning and swimming REALLY FAST in my direction was slightly unnerving. The sound of 10 or 15 dolphins echolocating on you at the same time is… well…. an extraordinary experience. They swam right at us and engulfed us in a wall of dolphin bodies, swimming close and giving us “the eye”.

Being in the water on a daily basis with the dolphins of Mikura causes me to feel great respect for dolphins in the wild – this is their domain and I am an alien guest. They are clearly in control of the situation and are the ones calling the shots. If this group wanted to, I am sure they could have tossed me around like a piece of seaweed. These thoughts flashed through my mind today, but only briefly. I feel comfortable enough in the water with these guys to be confident that I will not do anything stupid that might end up in dolphin aggression being directed at me. But still, if ever you were to get nervous around wild dolphins, I am sure watching this gang of males come charging at you would be enough to make you sweat. In the end, it was a good encounter and I filmed all sorts of great video that will be useful for our research.

So tomorrow I am going to get the ferry back to Tokyo. I will be gone from Mikura for a week – I have some sudden ‘business’ to attend to back in Ireland (more info later). I’ll only be gone for about a week – a quick trip. But I think I will miss the dolphins here. After working on the video logs, learning IDs and getting to know the dolphins I come in contact with on a regular basis, I am developing a soft spot for some individuals! Even some of the subadult males….believe it or not.