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Dolphins in Key West
 March 1995

In March 1995 I flew out from New Mexico to Florida for two weeks to fulfill a longtime dream: to meet some dolphins out in the wild, on their turf, instead of in the chlorinated prison cells at places like Sea World (a practice I've been having more of a problem with as I learn more and more about these mysterious, intelligent and beautiful creatures). I've always been fascinated with dolphins, and have yearned to make a connection with them. So I was very excited about heading out to the coast and seeing something I've always wanted to see.

After doing the Disney thing, and getting royally sunburned out on Lake Dora, Karen & I drove down through the Florida Keys and set up camp in Key West. This place is Heaven on Earth. Everyone is so serene & so peaceful (and so tan! :-). Sunset in Key West People down there really have a different mindset -- when you're surrounded by the sea, you learn to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of life and earth. The frenzy and chiseled-to-the-nanosecond pace of modern civilization has no place there. Key West natives are tuned to something quite different.

Our first day in, we took a trolley tour, gorged ourselves on seafood buffets, and checked out the sunset over the water at a place called, appropriately, the Sunset Pier. And boy, they weren't kidding when they said "sunset" ...

I had been in contact with one "Captain Vicki" whom I had learned about on alt.animals.dolphins. If there's anyone who is the region's "dolphin ambassador", it's her -- she was born in Key West and has been around the dolphin pod in that area for years and years, to the point that they know her and trust her. Which is how she began bringing others out to "meet" them: it is because they know her that they allow strangers into their domain. Vicki, like others who have spent a lot of time with dolphins, are one of those who are advocates of dolphins' extremely high intelligence and empathic -- some say telepathic -- communicative abilities.

Our charter almost had to be called off due to a storm that rolled through the Keys on the day we were scheduled to go out. The next morning found rougher waters than normal and cold, overcast weather, but the charter was a go! Vicki said that the storm currents had swept all the fish into one area which would attract the pod for feeding, meaning that we'd have a good chance of sighting some dolphins that morning.

We spotted the first one barely one mile out of Key West, which Vicki said was extremely unusual. She thought they might have sensed how eager I was to meet them & were drawn in to wait for me. Vicki cut back the throttle (we were doing a healthy clip of around 40-45 mph) and began sending out her "signature" (what dolphins use to call each other ... the dolphin equivalent of a name). Vicki flipped a switch and an underwater speaker began emitting a pattern of cetacean-sounding chirps that they knew was Vicki. She nudged the throttle intermittently and we followed the one we had spotted. She continued to lead us away from the island, eventually taking us about six miles out.

At this point I was in la-la land. (FYI, I just kind of held my camera in front of me at chest level and clicked the shutter indiscriminately. No way was I going to watch dolphins through a viewfinder ...)

Playing with breakfast Further out we found four more together, feeding on morning fish, so we hung back at a respectful distance. We could see them surfacing and diving, usually in groups of two. Vicki said if we were patient -- if we let them have their breakfast and not get in their face -- they would reward us later. Sure enough, after about a half hour they decided to give us a little show by playing with their fish. They'd surface with fish in their mouth, and twist and contort their bodies, tossing the fish through the air. It was hilarious, and exhilarating -- they were behaving the way they wanted to, at their discretion.

Swimming alongside After a while they began to come closer to the boat. Vicki put on a tape of classical and new age music, which she said helps to focus on getting into the vibe of their environment. It was surreal, seeing these dolphins gently, peacefully moving through the water, while the music painted soothing abstract imagery in my mind. It was all very tranquil.

Inga crossing underneath the boat Vicki pointed out Inga, a young dolphin whom Vicki has known since birth. (Yes, she witnessed this one's birth, which completely blew me away.) Inga, along with her mother, seemed very eager to get close and personal with us -- after a while they began Inga getting friendly swimming around us and sometimes back & forth right underneath the boat. They got close enough to touch (but moved too rapidly :-).

The true high point was when Inga swam slowly lengthwise down the boat, rolling over on her back & showing us her belly! It was an especially trusting, friendly thing for her to do for us.

It was hard to leave -- I swear, if it wasn't so cold I would've wanted to jump in and see what they looked like underwater -- but after a few hours out on the open sea with some new friends, we headed back in. My hair was windswept and I had a smile on my face (I have to admit, even a little tear in my eye). The whole morning was one constant, beautiful dream come to life. It was a very emotional & enlightening experience for me.

Mark my words: if you go to Key West in ten or so years, there's a good chance you'll find me, living on a boat, out on the ocean, cavorting with the dolphins ... Call it my next lifelong dream.

  • Artful Dolphin
  • Dolphin_friends Yahoogroup
  • Dolphin Wellness Program
  • Dolphin Mental Abilities
  • "Dolphins and Man ... Equals?" by Regina Blackstock
  • Dolphin Self-Recognition Mirrors Our Own
  • The Dolphin Within Society
  • Dolphin Synergy
  • Earthtrust - Wildlife Conservation Worldwide
  • Whaleclub.com
  • alt.animals.dolphins (Usenet newsgroup)
  • My friend Satoko's dolphin visit at Shinagawa aquarium
  • Is There a Dolphin in the House? (see Sound and Vibration)
  • Underwater Recordings - Cetacean Research Technology
  • Whale & Dolphin Stranding & Rescue Links

    Dolphin news archive:

  • Australia Asks Mexico to Save Abducted Dolphins
  • Pod of Dolphins circles protectively around New Zealand swimmers
  • Dial-A-Dolphin on Your Mobile
  • Whale-Dolphin Hybrid Has Baby Wholphin
  • School of 1,500 dolphins seen off coast
  • Dolphin therapy fights depression
  • Whales and dolphins threatened by naval sonar, says UN report devices
  • Scientists Study Hundreds of Dead Dolphins

    Found an educational or news-related item about dolphins? Send it to synth@swcp.com

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