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9.16.2004

More detail on the Dingle dolphin

I posted something about this already, but here's the full story in greater detail, with the final, somewhat sad outcome.

We took a rest day in the fishing and farming village of Cloghane, on the northern side of the peninsula. There's an estuary there, at the end of Brandon Bay. When the tide is high, it's full of water, but at low tide, it turns into little more than a mud flat with a stream running down the middle.

I was at the hostel, in the sun room, when a German woman who owns the place comes in and asks "do you want to see a dolphin?"

ireland map
click to enlarge


I say "sure," and told Harper what was up. We walk out to the water, and there, just across a stream, is a dolphin, or perhaps a porpoise, beached in the marsh, tangled up in seaweed, and it is freaking out. I went across the stream over to the dolphin, where her husband was already on the shore looking at it. It was in about two to two and a half feet of water. At this point, I snapped this one picture, I could have taken better ones, where you could see its head out of water, but it didn't really seem like the best time to be playing with the camera, and I wrapped it in my rain-jacket (it was raining) and set it down on the shore. They had called the marine mammal center, but that was in Dingle, which was on the other side of the penninsula, and were not sure if anyone would come, or when they would come.

Three dolphins had come into the estuary, probably to escape the storm (the remnants of Francis) that was currently hitting the west coast of Ireland, or at least that was the theory advanced by the locals. When the tide began to go out, they were stuck in there, or at least this one was.

I asked the owner (not knowing much about marine mammals) if we should try and rescue it. He replies "I think so, yes," and we both stripped down to our underwear and waded into the water and the rain. We got it untangled from the seaweed, and pushed and pulled on it until it got turned around

Several people (locals) came to watch. They said it was a young one (it was very small, or at least small in my conception of how big a dolphin should be). It kind of floundered around, and then headed back in and got tangled up again. It was panicking, so we pulled the seaweed loose again, and pushed it out again, farther this time

And that time it started to swin out, towards the mouth of the harbor. It joined up with a second dolphin that was out there, and it looked like they made it out to sea. They at least made it out to Brandon Bay, which has deep water. It looked as if the 2nd dolphin had been waiting for the one we saw on the beach. We did not see any sign of the third one that some folks had seen that morning, and assumed that it had already made it out.

It turned out, however, that the third one, an older and larger dolphin, which I did not see, did not make it, and died on the banks at the mouth of the stream that runs into the estuary. We did not hear about it until later in the day. So all in all, it was a mixed day. I was happy to have been able to help rescue one, but very sad to hear about the other, and wished that we had found it as well, or that someone had come across it sooner.

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