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Dolphin Antics

by Laurie Collett (about the author)

© 1999, Laurie Collett

 Dolphins are not an uncommon sight on the Serpentine River, Mandurah, Western Australia, where I often paddle in a vain effort to improve my fitness and gain a little extra speed. So the other morning when I saw the familiar fin and energetic splashing I just moved to the other side of the river to move out of harm's way. Suddenly the bow of my TK1 went nose down and I felt a surge behind me. My first thought was that one of the dolphins must have inadvertantly surfaced behind me, but I began to have second thoughts when this went on for ten metres or more.

When two dolphins surfaced a few metres to the side of me I thought, "All's well, they're now on their way."

Seconds later, however, my canoe's nose was down again and this time under water. I was riding on a tidal wave doing about 90 knots (I'd managed the extra speed) which I must say frightened the living daylights out of me! Whilst in one sense it was exhilarating, I was also wondering how soon the nose would be heading for that muddy bottom!

So I paddled like crazy to stay upright and did the fastest fifty metre sprint I'm ever likely to do. I was just starting to wonder how long I could keep this up when everything, except my heart rate, returned to normal. I assume that the two dolphins had been swimming one either side of my rudder thus creating the minor tsunami. I had actually been too busy to take a look! It must be one way these animals get their kicks (or 'flips', as the case may be).

Continuing my less than boring training run, I recalled that Al (the Finn) Duke had told me some time ago of a similar experience his younger brother had had on this same river.

On my way back downstream I could see the dolphins off to one side about fifty metres. Foolishly I banged on the canoe just so I wouldn't frighten them, whereupon they headed straight for me like a couple of Exocet missiles - aimed about midships! At what seemed like the last moment they veered off to stern and I could almost hear them laughing their silly heads off.

My guess is that they were a couple of juveniles having a bit of fun whilst Mum was organising the breakfast, but if there is anyone out there that can speak dolphinese perhaps you could find out the reason for this unusual behaviour. Then again, it may be a behaviour worth cultivating. I wonder what sort of fish they like.

Happy (uneventful) paddling, Laurie

PS. Incidentally, the splashing mentioned earlier is caused when the adult dolphin gets in amongst a shoal of mullet. They give an almighty thump with their tail which stuns the fish so they and their offspring can eat at their leisure.

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