Friday, February 8, 2013

The Amazing Dolphin

Ancient Greek historian Plutarch wrote: "To the dolphin alone, beyond all others, nature has given what the best philosophers seek; friendship for no advantage. Though it has no need of man, yet it is a friend to all men and has often given them great aid."

Quote from Plutarch posted at

I've always liked dolphins. I like cool fantasy paintings of them, jewelry with dolphins on it, cool tye-dyed ocean life t-shirts and notepads featuring the artwork of Christian Riese Lassen and reading about them in fiction and non-fiction books. When I used to spend summers with my Grandparents in Clearwater Florida, we would often see them just swimming around in the bay, while we were out in the boat, at the wildlife center, and at places like Sea World, in an artificial environment, performing tricks for the crowds. We also saw manatees and I developed a liking for them, too. As a youth I read an Anne McCaffrey book "The Dolphins of Pern", I remember enjoying it very much. I also remember watching and loving the original "Flipper" TV show, the star of the show was the dolphin. Dolphins are intelligent aliens and try to save the earth in Douglas Adam's iconic 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and swim/fly away singing 'So long and thanks for all the fish..."

It seems many people also associate the dolphin with special abilities, and over the centuries, many tales abound about how dolphins have helped lead stranded mariners to safety and protected people from shark attacks, leading to a special bond between human and dophin.The dolphin is known to be a hightly intelligent creature and there are stories of their interaction with man from back in ancient Greek history. Aristotle correctly theorized that the dolphin was a mammal as he observed them giving birth and suckling their young. Dolphins are known to assist others of their kind to the waters surface to help them breath and have not been known to attack humans.
The Romans even commemorated dolphin by minting a coin with a dolpnin on it. Apollo is said to have appeared at the Greek Oracle of Dephi in the form of a dolphin. Tales abound in which dolphins have saved many a shipwrecked or drowning human and also have helped man catch fish by rounding up fish into his nets. The New Zealand Maori beleive dolphins are sacred and call them 'human beings in the sea'. There is an island, Groote Eylandt, off the northern coast of Australia where the native Aborigines consider themselves to be descendents of the dophin.

Dolphins and porpoises differ, but are in the same family of 'Toothed Whales or Cetacea'. The most familiar probably being the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. The Bottlenose can also seen as performers in aquatic shows. Dolphins breathe air from their blowhole. The average lifespan for a dolphin in the wild is 30 years and the oldest known dolphin lived 48 years under human care. The diet of the dolphin is schooling fish such as mullet, herring, mackerel, and occasional squid and shrimp. Dolphin sounds; clicks, buzzes and whistles, come from the blowhole.

Amazing dolphin stories:

NBC News Today (Nov 2007), Surfer Todd Endris was attacked by a giant shark off the coast of Monterey, California. He was bitten on his back and on his leg and badly injured. A pod of bottlenose dolphins surrounded him and protected him from the shark allowing him to make it to the shore where he coud be rescued. (

A dog that fell into a canal and was missing for over 15 hours was rescued by dolphins in Florida.
A neighbor heard splashing nearby and observed the dog stranded in shallow water surrounded by dolphins. ( also at Paw Nation: Dog Saved by Splashing Dolphins
More about this story on PawNation:
Feb 25th 2011
"We've heard of dogs rescuing dogs and dolphins rescuing people (well, Dick Van Dyke, anyway), but this story is truly one to remember.

Turbo, an 11-year-old Doberman, has had enough doggie paddling to last a lifetime after a frightening night spent in a canal near his home in Marco Island, Fla. Fortunately for the waterlogged dog, the sea held some good Samaritans in a surprising form -- dolphins!

It was the persistent splashing of the dolphins that wouldn't leave Turbo's side that drew the attention of a neighbor, according to WBBH-TV, and may have saved the dog's life. The neighbor called 911, and then jumped in the shallow water to rescue the paddling pooch."
(Dick Van Dyke also tells of a story from his youth where he was assisted by dolphins.)

Fisherman saved by Dophins:
A Phillipine fisherman whose boat capsized in a squall later told a story of being saved by dolphins. A pod of about 30 dolphins and two whales surrounded him, flanking him on both sides. As he lay clinging to life on a piece of styrofoam, the dolphins would nudge him with their pectoral fins towards land. He woke up 24 hours later on the beach. (

And another:
A scuba diver who was hit by a boat and knocked unconscious was watched over by dolphins, witness report that over 100 dolphins were surrounding the diver and helped bring attention to him so he could be rescued.

These are amazing stories and seem to show the dolphin has the ability to sense when a human is in danger and the wherewithall to protect and watch over them until they can receive help. Those who have observed these majestic sea creatures also tell many tales of them helping injured of their own kind to the surface to breathe and protecting each other from predators.
Other tales of dolphins helping people come from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Dead Sea, and other parts of the world from Ancient Greece to the present day. The dolphin has proven itself as a loyal friend to humans but you can't help wondering why sometimes. What is it in the psyche of the dolphin that makes it so altruistic? Maybe someday we will be able to find out. The stories are so numerous that I, for one, do not doubt them.

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