Dolphin and Whale Magazine :  January issue 2011
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Porpoise Communication 
Rescuing a Harbor Porpoise 
By Carol Drummond
from Wade Doak's blog

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My husband and I were fishing from our 25' gillnet fishing boat in Juneau, Alaska, and I was 4-5 months pregnant. While I was watching the net, I saw that a dolphin-like animal had been caught and was struggling under the water. I reeled in the net, slid the struggling form alongside the boat and slipped one arm underneath him so his blow hole was above water.

I could only see from his dorsal fins upward, which was about 3', making him probably 6' in length. He was very black on the top, and it appeared he was white underneath. I remember thinking that his skin felt like a rubber tire. It never occurred to me that he did not understand that I was trying to help him, and at all times I had this strong feeling that he knew exactly what I was thinking before I said it.

I told him that I was pregnant and that he would have to lie very still because I could not put pressure on my stomach. He immediately calmed down and lay still. While I have never thought he understood my words, I have always felt he knew my thought, that he knew I was pregnant.

He had his right dorsal fin stuck in several squares of the net, and in the process of trying to twist himself free, he had wrapped himself like a mummy. I was too busy trying to get him free to take time to inspect him closely, but I remember that the outer two corners of his dorsal fin seemed
to be square, not like the pictures of sloped, more triangular dorsal dolphin fins that I had seen. Because I was holding him with one hand, I only had my other hand free to work on him, and I told him that I would have to tear the net and it might cut him. Once again, while I do not think he understood my words, I believe he understood my thought. I pulled the filament against his fin, and I remember seeing blood as it cut the surface of his flesh. The cut was not serious, and while later I was struck that he did not move a muscle, at the time I simply knew he understood.

All the time I worked on him, his blow-hole was 6" from my face, and I remember listening to him
breathe. It sounded just like a human taking a breath.

When the fin was free, I was exhausted. I told him that I did not have the energy to push him away from the boat, and at that moment he gently swam away. A few moments later I saw two dolphin-like forms swim very slowly near the boat and then slowly slip away. I'd like to think the other form was his mate and that they were both thanking me.

I was very young at the time. It never occurred to me that this might not be a usual occurrence. And then, about 6 years ago I took a course on marine mammals and told my instructor my story. He became very interested and gave a colleague my description of the dorsal fin. His colleague said that harbor porpoises are native to the Juneau waters and had similar rectangular dorsal fins. My instructor also explained that the lungs of a porpoise are very similar to the lungs of a human, and therefore, the breaths the porpoise took would sound so human to me. Finally, my instructor also told me that at that time there was underway a study between dolphins and pregnant humans. Several pregnant women were asked to swim in a pool with dolphins during their pregnancies. It was planned that when these women gave birth, they would take their infants back to the pool to swim again with the dolphins to find out whether the dolphins recognized the infants after having 'seen' them in the womb with their sonar. My instructor felt very certain that this harbor porpoise 'saw' that I was pregnant and that I had experienced a communication with him that has been experienced by others.

I have no proof and I have no witnesses. To those who require dolphins to speak words in order to prove that they have language, you may be disappointed. While they may or may not speak words as we know them, I am certain in my heart that they have another way of communicating without words.
                      
 
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