photo credits


"The Joyous Inspiration of Dolphins"

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I can't imagine
there are too many people
who don't remember their first
impression of a dolphin as
being one of wonder and joy.
It is somehow reassuring
to find that such magical
beings exists.
They just seem to emanate
happiness and a love for life.
I know that's how it was for
me when I first saw dolphins
at Marine World when I was
a child; and then whether it
was Flipper or the Cousteau
Documentaries, I was just
completely enthralled by them.
It was quite a few years
before I found myself in a
position to be around
them in their element...
The Ocean World.

During my years
of scuba diving in
the waters off the
Big Island of Hawaii,
for pleasure and as a
divemaster,I have never
ceased to feel great joy
from dolphin sightings.
Usually spinner dolphins
near the coves, and
sometimes bottlenose
and spotted dolphins.

bow riders

photo: OAR/NOAA Central Library

Bow Racing Dolphins

photo credit: Smithsonian Institute

Whether up close,
as they race with the bow
of the boat or put on their
acrobatic show of leaps
and aerial spins in the
wake (revealing the pink
undersides of the young
spinner dolphins), or
from a distance, it's
just a wonderfully
inspirational sight
to behold!

If they hung around
after the engines were cut,
we'd gently slip into the
water with mask and fins,
hold on to a stern line and
watch their playful antics
just below us.
Sometimes they would swim
along under the surface
nuzzling each other or
playfully tossing some bit
of "flotsam" from one
to the other.

Sunlit Dolphins

photo credit: National Marine

Sunlit Dolphins

Sometimes they would
continue the surface acrobatics
from a short distance away
after we had moored at the dive
site, always to the great
pleasure of all on board.
I mean a day of diving is
pretty much a happy affair
to begin with, but when
the dolphins are around there's
just that something extra
that everyone aboard
seems to feel.

The first time I saw an
"air ring" was during my
basic open water dive class.
My friends and I had just
finished practicing some of
our skills in a sand patch
off "City of Refuge near
Kealakekua, and the
instructor casually took his
regulator out of his mouth,
leaned his head back, pursed
his lips and "poohfed".
Out came a perfectly
circular, silvery ring of
air (they put smoke rings
to shame!)
Since air expands as it
ascends, it became larger
and thinner as it rose,
disintegrating into
thousands of tiny
bubbles as it touched
the surface.


2 humpbacks

After the dive
he told us that dolphins
could also blow "air rings"
and that they play with them
which causes the shape to
distort into odd formations,
an effect we observed when 2
of his rings collided before
reaching the surface.
It took me a year to be able
to blow one that could
rise intact 10 to 15 ft.
without disintegrating into
bubbles right away.
Mine still don't make it to the
surface if I'm deeper than 15'.
There are some great photographs,
articles and an ongoing study
through Earth Trust about
dolphins blowing air rings,
except that they call
them "bubble rings"!
(see the link below:
"Mystery of the Silvery Rings")

There was a scientific
meeting on dolphins
somewhere around 1994 or
'95 in Kona, Hawaii that
was attended by a lot of
residents, especially
divers. The subject of
dolphins "playing" came up.
One of the scientists, in
a rather authoritive tone,
stated that there was no
scientific evidence that
dolphins play. A bit of a
chuckle went around
the room and one of the dive
instructors who attended
proceeded to tell him of some
of the things many of us
had observed such as tossing
a plastic grocery bag
back and forth between
"players" like something
between "catch" and
"keep away".

2 spotties

2 dols

photo credit: OAR/NOAA
Central Library
by M.Herko

I sort of felt sad for
the scientist. I didn't
know if he was so used to
getting conditioned
responses in a
controlled environment that
he'd missed out or what.
I just recently came across
an article that was published
a couple of years later that
put a big smile on my face.
It was confirming that
dolphins do "possibly" play
and the way it is written,
I suspect that meeting may
have had a little to do with it.
Out of the tank and into
the wild blue?

Dolphins can stay submerged
for 8 to 15 minutes, but 2
to 5 minutes is average. They
usually sleep on the surface
with their blow holes
exposed for breathing.
They only doze for a few
minutes at a time because
they are conscious breathers
which means they must be at
least semi-conscious to blow
water out of the airway
before taking a breath.
Spinner dolphins feed during
the night in the open ocean and
come near shore during the day
to rest and frolic and make
love, which they seem to
do pretty frequently.
Dolphins are sexually active
all year 'round but the females
are only fertile during
spring and summer.

2 humpbacks


The family unity and affection
dolphins have for one another
is unmistakable. The female
dolphins bear children about
every 2 to 3 years. When the
mother-to-be is about to
give birth, several dolphins
gather around her while
one or two "aunties"
serve as midwives.

Sometimes they'll tug
on the baby's tail to help
it out and then the mother
and the "aunties" will guide
the baby to the surface for
its first breath.
Nursing will last for
12 to 18 months, but they
start eating solid food by
6 months.After only one year
the calves will grow to be
7 times the size they were
when they were born.

Young Dolphins

The mothers are very protective of their offspring, as are whales. A calf may stay with it's mother for 5 years or more.The bond between dolphin families and friends is often for life.

A lot of the laws made in the '60s and '70s to protect dolphins have been relaxed by Congress and thousands of them are being killed again by fishing nets. And then there's pollution which is a world wide problem. As the the lower creatures of the food chain ingest high levels of DDT, PCBs and other chemical toxins, they become the food for the higher species including whales, dolphins and us. Click on of the "links" button below for more information about marine life and our eco-system to see what we can all do to help solve these problems!

For more on diving with our ocean friends and more dolphin photos, click on the link below
to visit my "HOME" page.

Tiggerlily Long

Gallery Index
Handcrafted Creations: Dolphin & Whale Boxes
My Underwater Photo Gallery II: Green Sea Turtles
My Underwater Photo Gallery II: More Sea Turtles
My Underwater Photo Gallery III: More Marine Life
My Underwater Photo Gallery IV: Sharks
My Underwater Photo Gallery V: Octopus
My Underwater Photo Gallery VI: Frogfish
Underwater Photo Gallery VII: Dolphins
Underwater Photo Gallery VIII: Humpback Whales

"Mystery of the Silvery Rings"

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