Giving thanks to Dolphins

86 8-5 AWD14
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
This is an Atlantic whitesided dolphin, not the same species as the ones who rescued the swimmers in New Zealand (probably common dolphins). But it is a close relative and I wanted to show my appreciation as best I could.

I think dolphins do this more often than we know....A sailor friend of mine heard of a man who fell overboard while at the helm... his friends searched desparately for him when they found he was missing. A group of dolphins came to the boat and acted very insistent, not the usual gleeful bowriding ... they finally decided to follow the dolphins to their friend .... never never would have found him on their own!!

9/18/86 going home end 1986 (page #16)

on the way home
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
People were quiet, some sleeping, some chatting about what they had seen. One woman had caught my attention while we were with Fissure. She was not in a group and kept to herself, watching intently and quietly while everybody else was bubbling with excitement.

I was both worried and curious about her response so I sat with her on the ride home and heard her story. A couple of years before, a humpback had beached on Cape Cod. It was still struggling to breath and people came from all around, at first just to see such a huge creature washed ashore.

She described how people began to empathize and were at a loss what to do. They got buckets and hauled water from the ocean, they soaked their beach towels to protect the whale's sensitive skin and keep it cool. Its struggle to breath became more intense, its lungs and internal organs slowly crushed by its own weight. People sang and talked to it, staying with it late into the night. It finally died and they all felt sad and helpless.

Our encounter with Fissure was a gift. She was soaking in all his energy and aliveness.

9/18/86 Fissure34 (page #15)

86 9-18 Fissure34
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
We had stayed way past the time we were usually scheduled to leave and so when Fissure sank slowly and submerged we carefully backed away and head for home.... some people kept watch off the stern and could see him "blowing" now and then in the distance.

9/18/86 Fissure36 (page #14)

86 9-18 Fissure36
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
A whales eyes are placed in such a way that they can only see binocularly if they look down and a bit forward. It is thought that is why whales spy hop if they are curious about something above the surface of the water.

Fissure spent a LONG time like this, turning slightly one way and then the other. We were all reaching out to him, waving, shouting ... you know.... all the weird things humans do when we get excited. He must have found us quite amusing..... we were the whale watchers being watched. It was an interesting sensation.

A bit of poetic liscense was used in the sequencing but all these pictures were taken on the same day... "never let the facts get in the way of a good story"

9/18/86 Fissure33 (page #13)

86 9-18 Fissure33
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Then he turned the other way.... and showed us his lower jaw with its rorquals .... These are pleats that allow his throat to expand so he can take in the huge quantity of water needed to filter out the tiny copepods and krill that he feeds on. Fissure also carries a small population of barnacles under his "chin"; a place they gather since it has the least turbulence when he swims.

9/18/86 Fissure28 (page #12)

86 9-18 Fissure28
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Up Fissure popped again next to his dissipating bubble.

Spinning around like a fashion model, he first showed us his upper jaw with the beautifully regular stove bolts and shiny skin.....

9/18/86 Fissure25 (page #11)

86 9-18 Fissure25
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
In all my years blowing bubbles in the bath tub, I have never been able to achieve anything like this! It remained a coherant mass about six feet across as it rose leisurely to the surface and then errupted, hissing as it dispersed.

It is thought that whales use what scientists call "bubble clouding" to confuse the small schooling fish that Humpbacks feed on. The fish clump and flee the bubble, forming a delectible mouthful for the whale to scoop up. In the Pacific, humpback whales are known for making bubble nets, a ring of small bubbles that look like a cyclone as they rise to the surface. Atlantic humpbacks blow these clouds. It would be fascinating if the Atlantic and Pacific groups learned the others techniques.

9/18/86 Fissure24 (page #10)

86 9-18 Fissure24
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
He dove under the boat again and we could see him going deeper and deeper until he was out of sight. Everyone ran to the other side.... it must have created a satisfying rumble to Fissure underneath us. Up came another bubble, pure white and tightly formed with little frothy bits softening the edges. As it got closer to the surface, it took on a wonderful green.

9/18/86 Fissure23 (page #9)

86 9-18 Fissure23
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Then he flopped slowly onto his side. His big mouth looked like he was smiling at us.... I wouldn't be surprised since he was definitely hamming it up for our benefit and was getting an uproarious response!

His upper jaw is closest to us and his eye would be just about where the swirl of water is.. right near where his mouth ends.

9/18/86 Fissure22 (page #8)

86 9-18 Fissure22
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
He wagged his big head back and forth ... a big leisurely gesture that made the water slosh around him.

9/18/86 Fissure21 (page #7)

86 9-18 Fissure21
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
We could see Fissure's dark shape following close behind and he popped up right next to it.

9/18/86 Fissure20 (page #6)

86 9-18 Fissure20

Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
People began staring down into the water, eyes wide... you could see a huge white blob rising slowly from the darkness, getting bigger and bigger until it broke the surface with a loud bluuub sound.

9/18/86 Fissure36 (page #5)

86 9-18 Fissure36
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
He looked us over:"spyhopping", as if to make sure he had our undivided attention and say "watch this".

He dove ... we could see his dark shape and the brilliant white of his flippers as he passed under us and disappeared into depths beyond visibility.......

9/18/86 Fissure13 (page #4)

Fissure13 9/18/86
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Suddenly there was Fissure sliding right alongside the boat. He was so close that we could see the whale lice on his back... those tiny red/orange things just in front of his dorsal.

Everyone ran pounding over to that side. Since it was mid-September there was plenty of room at the rail, but unfortunately kids were in school and there were very few to see this.

I am not sure how he got the scar on his dorsal, but we used it that summer to make the initial identification and then confirmed it when he fluked and showed his tail. If you look at the last two photos, you can see the difference between the pattern on his tail and on Olympias.

9/18/86 Fissure08 (page #3)

Fissure08 9/18/86

Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Fissure brought up his tail for a deep dive and we figured he was following her (you can barely see the lump of Olympia's dorsal in front and right of Fissure's fluke). The captain started up the engines and we headed over towards another whale we could see blowing in the distance....

9/18/86 Fissure with Olympia (page #2)

Olympia09 9/18/86
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
We drifted with Olympia and Fissure for about 20 minutes and things were pretty quiet. The two whales would dive for 7 or 8 minutes, then come up and blow a few times and dive again. We suspected they were feeding, perhaps cooperatively since the stayed near each other and come up at the same time.

Suddenly Olympia slapped her tail on the surface of the water with an explosive whack! It was a total surprise and all we could figure was she was alerting Fissure (or us?) that she had had enough and was heading off to feed.

9/18/86 Fissure with Olympia (page #1)

Fis-Olympia 9/18/86
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Olympia was a well know matriarch, who had been seen since 1979. Between 1983 and 1996 Olympia had 5 calves.

Two of those (Anchor born 1983 and Cascade born 1987) had calves of their own making Olympia a grandmother! Anchor's calf was born in 1990 (when she was 7), and Cascade's was born in 1996 (when she was 9).

There was no evidence that Fissure was related to Olympia in anyway, they just seemed to be enjoying each others company, diving in sync for over an hour. When she made a deep dive we suspected she was going to leave us.

9/18/86 Second Meeting with Fissure (#2, link)

Fissure03 9/18/86
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.
Two weeks passed before we met Fissure again. This time the sea was choppier than our previous meeting, making it harder to keep track of what was happening. Even so we were able to find two whales blowing about 1/2 mile from each other. It appeared they were diving and coming up at about the same times.

It was hard to chose which to focus on, but when we came to the closest, we recognized it was a well known adult female named Olympia. When she dove we went to the other and sure enough it was Fissure. While watching Fissure, Olympia came over to join him (and us), the two dove in unison, came up close together and circled the boat.

Fissure's dorsal is the closest, Olympia is behind him.