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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Swim Wild, Swim Free

These common dolphins are swimming wild and free, where every dolphin should be


I took the shot so it isn't a "professional" wildlife shot, it is what I call a "happy memory" picture.  It won't win any photography prizes but it has won a place in my heart forever.

The background to this story might be of interest to you, I am not particularly religious but it sure felt like someone gave us a reward that day.

We were on a delivery trip, taking a yacht from the Solent, up through the Irish Sea, to its home port in the Clyde and we had just come out of some horrendous weather - big waves, big winds (very big winds) and more than a few big scares as we wondered just how much more the yacht could take before it, or the people on it started to break.  The sea is a fickle mistress, she can change her mood as fast as you can change your sails to match it but as long as you never take her for granted, she can turn from hard to gentle to comforting and she does.  Maybe there's a lesson for life right there?

There wasn't much food on board; we had only enough for another couple of days and, thanks to much poorer weather than forecast, we had already been on the go for a few days more than expected. Everyone on board was tired.  Close to Dun Laoghaire (Dublin's main stopover port for small transit traffic) we had a choice; get ashore for a day's rest and a provision run or we could just keep going and make the most of the new flat-calm conditions we found ourselves in.

We kept going.

Four hours later we were well past the decision point as going to Dun Laoghaire would have meant turning back and we were just at the changeover point for night watch with all 3 of us on deck enjoying the last hour of daylight.


And then we got our reward.

This is even less of a prize winning snap than the first pic but if you look just to the left of the yacht, slightly to the right of centre you will see there is a dolphin there.  A common dolphin who appeared from nowhere (we were at least 20 miles from nearest land) leapt clear of the water and, just to give you an idea of how fast these magnificent animals travel, from a series of 10 snaps this is the first one that showed anything other than an empty sea.

What the snap could never show you is that he was not alone, we had just been joined by a pod of not less than 30 common dolphins and they were a big family group.  There were youngsters no more than a metre in length swimming close to their mums.  There were also adolescents and I now know that dolphin "teenagers" are as cheeky and daring as human teenagers and that their parents give them just as big a ticking off!  These youngsters were the ones leaping highest out of the water, without a doubt in showing off mode.  I am torn between regret that we did not have a video camera or a sixth sense telling me when to press the shutter on the still camera and absolute delight that my memory of those first five minutes of the encounter were shared just between people and dolphins, each in their own environment but coming together by the conscious choice of the dolphins and not the people.

What happened after that though was the most moving experience of all.

For the next 40 minutes those dolphins joined us with mums and babies swimming alongside whilst the dads and adult singles were bow-riding, often stacked 8 deep on either side of the bow, swimming at an average 6 kns (according to the log when we checked it afterwards) and regularly rolling on their sides while still swimming, obviously watching us, watching them.

There was solid communication there but I suspect the dolphins have a much better idea of what that communication was.  There can be little doubt they find it easier to understand our species than we understand theirs.

Please forgive me for we hardly have any photos, we were too busy living the moment...

Let me fast forward a year to the time when I first heard about Sea Shepherd and through that amazingly powerful organisation was introduced to the movie, The Cove, a very deserving Oscar winner.

The Cove changed my view on life.  On my sailing adventures I have had the enormous privilege of sharing the ocean with magnificent marine mammals, not just on this occasion but on many similar occasions since.  I cannot sit quietly by whilst other so-called human beings murder dolphins for profit and if you have ever watched any of the Cove Guardian videos from Taiji it is increasingly likely that a few, even more disgusting humans, murder dolphins and pilot whales for some kind of sick pleasure.

So what could I do to stop this?  What can any of us do?

There is a ten word phrase I have been living my life by for a while now.  A phrase unusual in that it is composed entirely of two-letter words:

If it is to be, it is up to me.

That does not mean it is all about me though, it means exactly the opposite.  I am proud to be a Sea Shepherd and hope and pray that I never become a  "Me Shepherd" because, frankly, our world has far too many of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.

I blogged last month (Physician, Heal Thyself) that we have 2 choices when faced with a horror such as Taiji.  You either go there yourself, or you dig deep and give someone else the funds to do so.

I am proud to be supporting my very best friend in her journey to Taiji and hope that you will click this link and Help Send Anna to Taiji to support Anna yourself.  The link will tell you her story, it is a moving one.

There is a 3rd option and that is to do nothing.  But if it is up to me, it must be up to you too...

Thank you for reading.