Phoenix and Akeakamai
I spent two weeks with these two dolphins, Phoenix and Akeakamai. I was a volunteer for Earthwatch, a non-profit organization that ran programs concerning various environmental issues around the world. This particular program involved communicating with dolphins and understanding their level of intelligence. The Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory ran like a fine Swiss watch. Every day there was a fully-packed schedule that ran on time with very specific training, even for the volunteers. They were always taking detailed notes, including written observations, video and audio for every activity with the dolphins. The training drills for the dolphins tested their memory, yes/no questions, instructions requiring the dolphins to know the difference between their left and right, and direct and indirect verbs. It was fascinating for me to witness these tests and take part in activities at the lab. There was also play time with the dolphins, but the best part of all, was getting a chance to swim with them underwater. One day, I stayed late to photograph them. When I returned home to New York, I put my slides on the light table and noticed that both dolphins were looking into the camera in every single frame. Just before I had arrived for the program, the leader of the project, Louis Herman, was credited for luring a lost humpback whale, Humphrey, out of San Francisco Bay with feeding sounds rather than scaring him as others had suggested. By the time I arrived at the lab, the news organizations were there interviewing Herman and filming the dolphins. I remember the dolphins showing off for the cameras as they kept leaping out of the water behind Herman as he was being interviewed. I also remember how when I first arrived, these two dolphins checked me out; both next to each other with their heads propped up on the edge of the pool just taking a good look at me. Those two weeks ranked very high in my most memorable life time experiences. Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. November 1985.