written by Jack Jarrard, guest student blogger
Off the west shore of Oahu on the coast of a town called Waianae, there is a bay that holds many of Hawaii’s most hunted sights. From stunning fish to armored turtles. From seals so manta rays. Helmeted urchins and periwinkles to conchs. Outside the bay during the wet season or “winter”, the whales can be seen breathing and sometimes emerging from their watery habitat to catch a few seconds of unfiltered sunlight. But when the big whales aren’t showing off, you can see their smaller images dancing in the water and jumping through the air.
Spinner Dolphins are some of the more regularly spotted dolphins in Hawaii. The Latin name, Stenella longirostris, means “long beak”. They can launch themselves through the air spinning along their longitudinal axis. These amazing creatures are readily equipped for their ecosystem. They are able to dive down to 1000 feet in search of food. They sleep with half of their brain, swimming in circles with the outside part of their brains watching for predators. They are also playful and fun to watch. They are sometimes overexposed to humans constantly chasing them trying to get close to them and even touch them. This can be very stressful for the dolphins in some cases. The dolphins hunt during the night and will return to shallow water during the day to rest and feed their young. But they are also very social creatures.
On Saturday mornings it has become a habit for a lot of people, and later tour boats to find these dolphins and swim with them. As I was approaching these dolphins hoping to catch a glimpse underwater, several people told me to keep my distance. I was already about 20 yards away so I stopped paddling the kayak and got in the water to watch them. Though I could not see them I could just barely hear their clicking which was something I’ve never heard before. It has been hypothesized that each individual has their own “personal” clicking patterns.
A neat fact I have learned from whale boat tour operators is that these dolphins, along with the whales each have a unique pattern on their dorsal fin and tail. These are usually recorded by marine biologist so that they can recognize and learn about different behaviors displayed by one individual. Soon, the dolphins started swimming up to us and literally swimming circles around me and my buddy. I didn’t do anything but watch as these graceful creatures swam in synchronized patterns around us. I was in about 15 feet of water and could see the bottom clearly. They swam under me and would spin underwater with each other. Finally, they moved to another group of people that were swimming out.
My time with the dolphins was short, but while it lasted it was amazing. When I went to the beach that morning, the last thing that occurred to me was that I would swim with dolphins. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I might see them. But it was one of the coolest things that I have probably ever done in the ocean. God has a way of jumping out at you with little blessings. Sometimes you don’t even know He’s doing it but I see him more and more every day!
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/spinner-dolphin, NOAA Fisheries
This blog is the second guest blog by high school student and amateur naturalist Jack Jarrard. Jack lives with his family on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. He loves exploring all of creation and spends time diving and fishing among many other creational endeavors.