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Identifying Individual Spotted Dolphins
We have identified individual dolphins in this film and included annotatations with information, names, locations and history.
Communicating with Spotted Dolphins
Using a computer/ synthesizer to interact with spotted dolphins of the Bahamas, this video shows the results of our experiment.





Extraordinary Encounters with Spotted Dolphins: Dolphin Research Project, Summer 2004

Dolphin Communication
Dolphins Interact with Computer executive director Hardy Jones has been working with a group of spotted dolphins in the Bahamas for twenty-five years. During this time he and his team have identified more than 60 individuals and have achieved astonishing breakthroughs.

Below is the first of our reports direct from the boat. Audio and video clips of this expedition will be posted here soon. Through this medium we will introduce you to some very special dolphins we have known for decades.  

Hardy Jones Dolphin Encounter Log

Swimming with Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas
Among dolphin friends
May 30: We departed west end on Grand Bahama Island at noon and headed north towards the White Sand Ridge. I'd first found dolphins there in the late 1970's and have maintained contact with the school since. This has been one of the driving elements in my life?to explore the lives of the spotted dolphins who live on a series of white sand ridges at the edge of the Gulf Stream. These dolphins are extraordinarily friendly and accessible and I've done a number of films on them over the years. We are filming for our production contracted by NATURE on PBS. The show will air early in 2005.

June 1: We brought our computer into the water and Jon Ross, who put together the hardware and software, began transmitting pre-programmed dolphin vocalizations. The reaction from the dolphins was immediate and strong. They approached the computer and provided Jon an excellent opportunity to record their vocalizations. The camera I was using to videotape the dolphins has a highly sensitive hydrophone built-in, so the day yielded a harvest of clear and discreet dolphin whistles and clicks and some sounds that are difficult to describe.

The dolphins were astonishingly friendly, approaching divers and even soliciting touches.

Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas
Calf and mother below Bow of Ocean Explorer
June 3: Conditions continued calm and flat with water visibility in excess of 100 feet. We spotted dolphins feeding on blue runners and approached. The blue runners aggregated under our boat. To our amazement, the dolphins seemed to corral the fish into a tight pack. Several dolphins seemed to act as guards, racing in to thwart any move by the fish to escape. But the majority of the school played wildly among themselves and interacted with us in an extraordinarily friendly fashion.

During the following days our encounters with the dolphins continued at high levels. The weather was calm enough to allow us to do a drift dive in the Gulf Stream after dark. Shining lights into the water brought clouds of squid and other small fish to the vicinity of the boat. The dolphins were not far behind. A dolphin I've called Amity? easily identifiable by the flat trailing edge of her dorsal? was one of the spotters who came to feed. It was a brilliant experience lying in the warm, calm waters of the Gulf Stream under a canopy of stars, with dolphins racing through the water tracking down squid and flying fish.

Filming Spotted Dolphins

On several previous occasions I've discovered that running the boat slowly on calm days attracts dolphin mothers accompanied by calves. The mothers seem to push their babies toward the bow of the slow moving boat. This may be designed to train their young to interact with boats. I've also seen other occasions when dolphin mothers have left their babies in the "care" of the bow of the boat. They deposit their little ones at the bow and then leave for other dolphin business, returning minutes later. They apparently feel that the boat provides a point of orientation for the calf in the midst of the vast white expanse of sand and they may feel that predators will not approach the boat closely enough to attack the calf.

Eventually the weather turned rough, but we had a number of encounters with the dolphins in spite of the rough seas. I took a DPV (Diver's Propulsion Vehicle) into the water and the dolphins raced to my bow. From an underwater vantage point we watched the dolphins surfing the waves? an experience which brought shouts of joy from us, even underwater.

And here is a previous story we posted about one young male dolphin we have developed a personal relationship with. We call him Chopper.

Hardy Jones swimming with Spotted Dolphins

Finger clicks attract Dolphins

North of Grand Bahama Island on the White Sand Ridge. July 4-9, 2004

Chopper: Twenty-five Years after First Meeting
We set out July 4 from West End, or what used to be called West End. It is now a fancy hotel/marina/ upscale housing development. The two weeks we'd spent with the dolphins in early June had been some of the most phenomenal I'd ever experienced. The one disappointment for me was that Chopper, the dolphin I have known longest out here on the banks, did not appear.

During our first full day on the White Sand Ridge we had flat calm weather and glassy seas. A nursery group of mothers and calves came to the bow of the boat. They played as they accompanied our boat, the Ocean Explorer, which was running at no more than two knots. I became very curious as to why the spotted dolphins seem to like to travel with the boat at this speed. But the mothers seem to bring the calves to the bow? perhaps to familiarize them with boats. One calf was nursing from its mother and playing rambunctiously with her within a few yards of our bow.

Chopper from Hardy's view
Roll-over image to see Hardy with Chopper.
July 8: A long day with no dolphin sightings. We cruised as afar north as Matanilla Shoals but no contact. Then a little after 7pm, while cruising slightly deeper water than usual, we picked up a group of five dolphins? four were heavies and one a juvenile. Among them was Chopper. I was truly delighted to see this old friend of twenty-five years. As I approach him at a tangent (I never swim directly at a dolphin) the distance between us did not close. Chopper was right off the bow and the thought occurred to me to go to within arms length of the bow.
Hardy Jones filming Spotted Dolphins
Hardy tapes a close pass.
For whatever reason this worked. Chopper, and he alone of the five dolphins, came straight to me, sonaring strongly, eyes wide open. He circled me quickly and I dove with him. He continued the circling, emitting constant streams of bubbles from his blowhole as he gave his signature whistle. I responded with some sounds of my own and he came closer, circling tightly around me in trememdous excitement.

His reaction was truly extraordinary. I've been with dolphins when they were excited and interactive but Chopper's level of intensity in sonaring me and the expression in his eyes as we circled one another twenty feet underwater convinced me he had recognized me. You can make up your own mind if you catch our film when it appears on Nature on PBS later this year or early next.

He continued to swim parallel to the boat until sunset.

The sun was headed for the horizon and since the seas were calm and fair weather portended we went out over the drop off to wait for dolphins coming out to feed. We set out lights which quickly attracted squid and flying fish, which in turn brough in four dolphins and later five.

night shot
There was a mother and calf among them. The dolphins were hugely excited, darting into groups of squid and lunging for flying fish. Dining at night in the Gulf Stream in warm clear water with a starry vault above our heads is a unique experience. We filmed the dolphins for several hours and then headed back onto the banks to anchor for the night. The dophins bowrode with us for much of the way back.

July 9: From the bow we saw spotted dolphins cruising with a bottlenose dolphin. Soon the numbers began to grow. Beneath the water we saw dark aggregations of dolphins, which, when they surfaced, revealed themselves to be boisterous groups of spotters and bottlenose, often roughhousing. Eventually we got in the water with them and found that there were four bottlenose attempting to mate with spotted females. The four males teamed up to constrain the female.

None of the spotted dolphins in the vicinity showed any signs of alarm or protest. There are stories of bottlenose dolphins teaming up to rape female dolphins but this was not the case here. At least there was no appearance of force or resistance. I'll examine the video we took to see if we can determine the sex of the dolphins which were observing this event.



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