It was a perfect day to hit the water; a bit of wispy cloud sitting near the horizon, just outlining the bright blue sky above us. It was breathing a gentle force 2, enough to cool us off under the hot sun but not nearly enough to send hats flying into the Atlantic. The water was calm, smooth rollers cruising toward the shore as we chugged out to sea on Eden, a fibreglass catamaran that must've done the same journey thousands of times before.
This was my first time searching for cetaceans though and I was amazed when - within five minutes of casting off - we found ourselves amidst a pod of five Bottlenose dolphins. Swift and sleek and more at home in the water than any professional athlete is on the field, they were clearly going somewhere. When they spotted the boat though, they took time out to come and investigate. I suspect that we're as fascinating to them as they are to us.
The boat pitched forward as everyone rushed to the bows to watch a dolphin bow riding in our wash. Looking down at it, it struck me just how crystal clear the waters out here are. I could see every little nick and scratch; every identifying mark which lets us tell one dolphin from another. It's amazing how quickly you start to differentiate them, to see one dolphin as 'this dolphin' rather than just 'a dolphin.' They have such a personality and despite the fact that the world they live in is so alien to us, that personality seems strangely familiar. You get the feeling that if you had fins, flippers and a blowhole, you'd be doing exactly the sort of things that dolphins do. We still know so little about what really makes them tick but just like apes the motivation for a lot of their more exotic behaviour seems to be the fuel that drives so much human activity: they simply want to have fun.
There's that well-worn saying that 'every day is a school day’, but I definitely learned more in two hours out on the water than I used to learn in a week at my old school. I thought dolphins were pretty awesome before I came out here but I was wrong: dolphins are absolutely stunning and I can't wait to get back out there again.
By Oscar Hawes - Field Communications Officer
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