It has been a week since I last swam with Dusty. After that I have mostly been at White Strand, but I have not even seen her from a distance. Other swimmers, who were looking out for her at Green Island and Spanish Point, came to the same disappointment. Like Jane remarked, each year around this time she is away a lot, probably hunting. In view of the coming winter this figures. She is topping up her winter fat.
I have seen on several occasions how she hunts. Here too the rocks come down in layers and these shelves are sloping into the sea. Between these, deep slits have been ground out and this is where the big fishes hide. For them the cracks and fissures offer a protection in which they are relatively safe against predators. Dusty puts her beak in there and sends out high-frequency sounds that paralyse the fish and so they are an easy prey. Once again it shows how cunningly she earns her living: she hunts with remote control.
Though her sonar only reaches for about 50 metres she can listen much further. That is why sonic signals work so well, as long of course as she is within hearing range. Hence we do the rattling with the mooring chains and the clicking with the stones. Apart from that, of course, you can make other sounds to let her know you are around. By moving my lower jaw to and fro I can make sounds on the mouth piece of my snorkel or by pulling the rubber strap of my mask. Also making sounds inside the snorkel like talking, singing, or shouting, or by blowing with a ‘Flatterzunge’, it’s like a language of its own.
Though dolphins also have excellent eyesight, if the water is murky they see as little as we do. So then they use their sonar all the time. But if it is clear they can see as well under water as above it. They stick their head out and scout the area. This is called ‘spy-hopping’.
The regular visitors of this site may remember that two years ago I built a boat from a washed-up container, in which I sawed out a sitting hole, mounted a meadow pole on it and shoved up a plastic tub while a road cone serves as a point. With a lever I would drive the monofin under the boat and hinge it to almost pedestrian speed. To power this up I made a wing with a three- metre span, expecting this would result in a higher speed. That proved to be a hysteric mistake. Then I bought a canoe paddle to try this out, but it was very heavy and did not result in a greater speed.
The last few weeks Dusty only came into the bay to check if there were any boats. They’ve all gone and usually she left again within five minutes. Therefore I thought that, if I would moor my boat there, Dusty might stay around long enough for me to go into the water and meet her there.
Yesterday, after some unsuccessful attempts to board in heavy surf, I towed the boat to the buoy swimming and secured it there. The rest of the afternoon I kept a close watch on it, but no Dusty.
This morning she did not show up either, until, while Trevor and I were talking, we both saw her dorsal fin, close to the boat. Trevor sped into the water and just swam with her for over an hour. When finally he came out he had such a wide grin on his face that it nearly fell off. And so had I! Finally I had found a celestial destination for my boat. As viewed from underwater, that is. It will keep afloat, even if it fills up with water, because inside there are lots of empty three-litre water bottles. What joy in this drizzard!
Just now another three people went into the water and through my weeping rear window I can see them frolicking with Dusty. Hopefully the boat will remain a meeting point. We have half a summer to catch up with.