Monday, April 20, 2009
Remarkable day today. Just came in from a 5 mile kayak out into the whale zone. Beautiful day here and the sea is very calm....irresistable. So I got out there and started listening and watching for any action. Pretty soon I heard the snort of a sea lion but he was not close and though I called to him, he wasn't interested.
Then I heard the unmistakable blows of dolphins. I saw them in towards land a bit and decided to intercept. I was successful and had them around me and under the kayak, very nice but I didn't go in. I began to regret that I hadn't but I figured I just couldn't get my gear together before they would be gone. They were Common Bottle Nose Dolphins and very active; as that species is prone to be.
Then I saw a Sea Turtle about 100 ft away and slowly paddled toward it. It looked up once or twice but seemed to be unconcerned, rare in my experiences with them thus far. As I got within 10 ft or so I was sure he would dive but no!, he just looked at me and stayed put. I maneuvered the kayak closer until he was a hands length away and I ran my hand gently over the top of his carapace; still no dive....remarkable! I kept running my hand over his carapace and he just stayed right next to me with his head literally against the kayak side. Then I "petted" the top of his head and started talking to him. His eyes were on me all the time and he was so incredibly beautiful and old and wise. He then went all around my kayak and under it as if he were examining it. I decided to go in but did not want to frighten him so I waited until he seemed to be through with his examination and when he started to swim away I rolled in. The water is very clear today so I saw him as he began his descent into the depths and I followed (I felt for a minute that I just wanted to follow him forever). He looked over his shoulder and continued his dive and just before my air gave out two Mobulas passed by in their own gracious way. Wow!
At that point I was already "higher than a kite" but there was more yet to come. I spied another group of dolphins further out but I figured I could intercept them and I did. This time I got geared up, rolled in and started looking around for them. I knew I was right in the middle of them (about 30) so I should see them. The last time I actually swam with dolphins close enough to see them under water was in Hawaii in '98.
No luck at first but every time I came up I could see them all around me so I knew they were very near. And then it happened....right in front of me and coming directly towards me were 5 beautiful Bottlenose Dolphins. It was so cool!! They began "clicking" and looking at me and swimming around me. I became so excited I began "clicking" myself and boy did I get some weird looks. Then they were all around me in groups of 2-6; not too close but certainly within 15 ft. I was in heaven. I swam as hard as I could, I dove, I rolled and tried to be as active as I used to be when I played water polo in HS and college (well....I tried). They responded by increasing their movement and looking me over. Oh my, what can I say...it was extraordinary!
Seems that this year is a year for me to experience many of the things I have wished for before I die (not suggesting all this as a portent); I am blessed indeed!
Enjoy the pics. The two young ladies are Elizabeth Plumb on the left and Jessica Pletz on the right (close up), my research assistants this season.