May 13: Spinning Dolphins

“Kim! (Pause) Kim!” “Ummh.” “Stick your head out of the forward hatch and look starboard,” Mark urged. I pulled myself out of a dream about teaching and rose up from bed. My bleary eyes worked hard to focus in the direction of the resounding splash 150 feet off our starboard bow. And then the scene came into focus: a dolphin leaping and spinning in the air, full body above the sea, landing flat on its side, sending a shower of spray into the air and a powerful crash echoing off the steep mountain wall framing the anchorage. The rest of the pod of dolphins was nearby, swimming slowly through the water, dorsal fins slicing precisely through the surface of the sea, with only their breath making sound. For an hour we watched this pod of dolphins fish around our anchorage on the island of Tahuata. Occasionally one of the dolphins would leap and spin and make a resounding splash, always on the fringes of the pod. At times a baby would leap alongside an adult, its tiny body struggling to twirl more than a full circle before crashing on the sea. We drank our coffee and wandered around the boat for the best viewing point. As I finished my coffee, a rainbow shone brilliantly over the ocean, the magical consolation prize of the frequent squalls.

Dolphins leaping under rainbow sky seemed gift enough for the morning, but we were graced with one more delight: a current line paralleled our boat, only ten feet away from our port side, and along the line swam fish and a gorgeous manta ray. The ray swam slowly along the line of bubbles, its fins delicately piercing the surface of the water, and its mouth gaping open to filter breakfast from the sea. The gentle morning sun illuminated its dark wings against the agate blue water, and the white of its mouth glistened as it passed by. We were treated to several passes by our boat, distracted only by more dolphins feeding and spinning.

The anchorage, we found out later, is called Dolphin Bay by the residents of the nearest village, a cove away. Strong currents run alongside the island of Tahuata, and the shape of Hanatefau Bay (our anchorage), channels the current and infuses it with nutrients and the rich marine life which pursues it. We were treated to this sight on May 11th, the morning after a delightful beam reach from Fatu Hiva.


3 thoughts on “May 13: Spinning Dolphins

  1. Glorious! Full of awe. Thank you for the amazing pictures you paint in words! Love to Dolphins, mantas, rainbows, and all of you. Definitely beats graduation day in Arcata!


  2. Ahhh, such an image. I’m living that beauty vicariously through you and appreciate you sharing. So beautiful. Happy Mothers Day, honoring the Great Mother and all activist mothers, thank you!


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