To: All Msg #48, Oct1993 09:03AM Subject: Re: How smart are dolphins, really? In February
From: Carl S. Leichter
To: All Msg #48, Oct-19-93 09:03AM
Subject: Re: How smart are dolphins, really?
Organization: Los Alamos National Laboratory
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Carl S. Leichter)
In February of 1991, I went to Monkey Mia World Heritage Region in
Western Australia. Wild ocean swimming dolphin have been regularly appear for
contact with humans in water less than 2 feet deep for about 30 years.
They also receive occasional token bits of fish (the feeding policy is such
that the amount of food given the dophins must be significantly less than
their dietary requirements and the feeding must take place at randomly selected
times...this is to ensure that the dolphin do not come to depend on humans for
food and that they do not come to MM simply as the result of training)
Dolphin navigate by using sonar. They are supposed to be able
to "see" inside our (and every other ocean going critter including themselves)
bodies because these soundwaves are penetrating. The sensation of being
"soned"? by a dolphin is very interesting. It sounded to me like I was wearing
headphones and was listening to a low frequency buzz inside my head (my head
NOT in the water at the time).
I was at MM for four days. The dolphin (for reasons that I cannot
fathom :-)) seemed to "like" some people more than others. When they
arrive, they usually keep their distance at first. They usually slowly swim
just out of reach. My first contact was with a dolphin that swam slowly just
in front of me; I reached out and touched her as she swam under my hand. She
did not react in any discernable fashion. They will swim right up to some
humans and just stop with their "nose" lightly touching the ankles (this
happened to me on my 3rd day) allowing light stroking. I remember there
was one lucky man who was making his first ever visit; immediately after he
stepped in about 18 inches of water he had four dolphin at his feet!
Some humans were never allowed within arms length.
Often, the dolphin would bring their young with them. I was lucky
enough to see a 6 month old that was around 2 feet long. She liked to
swim directly at you at full speed then peel out at the last minute and swim
in a circle around you just out of arm's reach.
I did see some of the dolphin react violently to some humans with
loud squealing and thrashing of the tail and upper body. But they never
touched anybody when they moved violently.
I had one dolphin swim at me slowly and I spread my legs so she could
swim beneath me. She came to a stop right under me (without touching).
There I am in 2 feet of water with a 200 kilo wild dolphin floating between my
I was astounded and *very nervous*. She just rolled her body so her eye came
out of the water and floated there looking up at me. I was the one who moved
of the situation....egad one flip of that tail and no family life for Carl.
I really, REALLY, enjoyed my time at MM and would love to go back with
about 20 million dollars to try some ideas I have for determining if it is
possible for humans and dolphins to communicate using high frequency sounds.
I cannot say how intelligent dolphin are from my experience, but I will say
they are inscrutable.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank