A Greeting Across the Species Barrier

Back in the late seventies, when our children were still under ten, we loved to spend an occasional warm summer afternoon at Marine World, which was then still located in Redwood City.

One of our favorite places to hang out at the park was the below-ground gallery for viewing the underwater antics of the dolphins. The gallery consisted of a long series of thick glass windows in a semicircle around half of the tank where the dolphins put on their show. Above us above ground were the bleachers where people watched the show.

One afternoon between shows, we were among a fairly large crowd of people in the undergound gallery, watching one particular dolphin swim in a constant great circle past each window over and over again. Most of the gallery windows were crowded with young children and their parents, fascinated by the beauty of this creature and his endless motion inside the tank.

I happened to be alone at the last, right-most window of the tank, and I fell into a kind of pleasant thoughtless reverie, induced partly by the effortless repetition of his powerful and silent movement. He must have made several dozen complete circles around the tank when, quite unexpectedly, he stopped right in front of my window, then turned to face me and looked directly into my eyes while I looked directly into his.

I have no idea how long he stayed poised that way, perfectly still, just looking, as I was perfectly still, just looking. It was probably no more than 30 seconds, but a strong chill ran up my spine and I felt goose bumps.

I had been seen by this beautiful creature!

Then he moved on and continued his great circles inside the tank.

I’m convinced to this day that whatever else you might say about this experience, it was definitely a telepathic greeting across the species barrier.

I thought of this experience a few days ago when we watched the new documentary called The Cove, a searing look at dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, that some have called “a cross between Flipper and The Bourne Identity.”

We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

It made us angry and it made us weep.

The great thing is that it may also make a difference.

We watched it using Netflix’s Instant Play through our Roku. It’s also available in the local video store.

Warning: The one scene of the actual slaughter, with the cove full of water as red as tomato sauce, is not suitable for very young children.

But for the rest of us, watching this outrageous destruction of a fellow conscious creature is necessary and important, if only to recruit us to the effort to stop it.

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One Response to “A Greeting Across the Species Barrier”
  1. depelton says:

    Footnote: The documentary makes clear that various forms of entertainment and ecotourism with dolphins (like swimming with them) and keeping them for shows … are all ultimately destructive and part of the problem.

    Ric O’Barry, featured in the film and the primary hero in the effort to stop the slaughter in Taiji, was the original trainer of the Flipper dolphins. He has spent decades trying to assuage his bad conscience for that work.

    Even my wonderful moment in the undergound viewing gallery involved a captive dolphin.

    It would have been much better if I had never had that opportunity.

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