I didn't plan on doing a video. In fact, I was ready to publish the below blog solely on dolphin photos until I came across this image, and it just sang to me. It typified the sunny afternoons spent in the slipstream of dolphin tails, watching them careen through the emerald Bay. But the image needed a little more motion if I were going to successfully share the experience with viewers. My still imagery is always reliant on the wild imagination of my audience to animate the rest of the story. However, there are just some things that a photo alone cannot capture; like the sound of a dolphin kiss. So, enjoy!
There was a three-week period in March where Atlantic bottlenose dolphins seemed to be the running theme to my final days in the Keys. It was as if they followed my boat waiting for good light and their chance to shine in front of the camera.
Everywhere I turned, I found pods of dolphins feeding in the shallows, playing behind my wake, or riding the bow, showcasing their acrobatics and boasting free range of Florida Bay. No matter how many times I've seen them though, it's always a treat knowing that in some capacity they're as curious of me as I am of them. Surely, it's a sign of intelligence when a mammal spends a great deal of its time exploring its curiosity, learning and interacting from the world. Or, as scientists like to say, "making sense of the senses." Not to get too far into detail here, but recent studies are showing that this highly sophisticated level of brain function can be attributed to neurons known as spindle cells. These cells are found in other complex-brained animals like chimpanzees, whales, and apes. Biologists hypothesize that spindle neurons are the building blocks to cognitive learning and comprise the foundation for elaborate social interactions. For someone who works around skittish wildlife that constantly flees at the snap of twig, to have a wild animal approach me for once feels like a gift, a subtle ego-stroke even.
The real gift, however, came from my friends at Dolphin Cove. Jessica Lundstrum, Emily Campbell, and Jessica Lili are dolphin trainers who spend all their time interacting with these incredible animals. I'm sure everyone who ever visited Sea World at one point wanted to quit their job and take up dolphin or whale training. Thousands of people come down to the Keys to dive the reefs and to also spend an afternoon in one of the several swim programs they have around the islands with rehabilitated dolphins. Just before the busy season picks up, however, they need to acclimate the animals to strangers. This is where it pays to have friends at Dolphin Cove. I believe the text I received read like this, "Hey Mac, we need people to swim with dolphins this morning, can you come in?" It was 75 degrees and sunny. My reply? "Nah, I have some things to do around the house... uh... yes!"
Not 30 minutes later I was sitting on the bedrock bottom blowing big air bubbles while four bottlenose dolphins circled and squeaked around me. I strapped on my GoPro and got some fun clips of the playful animals as they tried desperately to figure out what that blinking red light on my head was. I couldn't believe I waited two years to do this and even more so, surprised when the staff thanked me as I left, which seemed so backwards; like Willy Wonka thanking Augustus for drinking from his chocolate waterfall.