Working with Dolphins and Whales…

 

When I was four, just after my father completed his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, our family moved to Texas. As a young lad growing up in the late 60's (and early 70's), and as far back as I can remember, my only dream was to work with dolphins and become a Dolphin Trainer at Sea World (pre-Blackfish). Before that dream became a reality, I remember reading and studying as many books as I could, on dolphins, whales, oceanography, and marine biology. I spent most of my childhood (through high school) as a competitive swimmer and also playing water-polo, on our high school swim team. I also thoroughly enjoyed swimming year-round in AAU, being part of our neighborhood swim team, lifeguarding, and teaching swim lessons during summer. Our neighborhood had an undeniably unique and formidable swim team and the pool was a significant part of our neighborhood community.

"After the magic moment when my eyes were opened to the sea, it was no longer possible to see, think and live as before.”

-Jacques-Yves Cousteau

My first experience scuba-diving was back in 1973, in the Pacific ocean. I remember taking a boat ride out (with a friendly local dive shop) to a well-known dive spot. This was my first time jumping into the ocean with dive gear. Through the lens of my mask, the crystal clear aqua-blue water was beautiful and invigorating. As I slowly descended, I exhaled from my regulator and watched the bubbles rise to the surface. I became even more intrigued by the ocean that day. As I continued to submerge, I took my first breaths of air and looked upon a beautiful underwater statue of Christ holding his arms up, surrounded by glowing tropical fish and other explosions of colorful coral. For me, this became an unforgettable place to experience my first dive.

From that day on I was totally "stoked" (there's really no other word) and became even more curious and motivated to learn as much as I could about marine life (biology), and this new and intricately colorful underwater world.

Molokini Island (Maui)
Another view of Molokini Island…

A few years later I was old enough to become (Scuba) certified at age 14, earning several PADI dive certifications (OW, AOW, and Rescue Diver).

In 1980, I traveled to Maui with my family for the first time. We stayed for a full month and visited what was then a totally unpopulated Wailea beach (The Grand Wailea and Four Season Resorts now encompass the area). We also visited Molokini Island, which offers world-class snorkeling and diving. Since then, I've fortunately had opportunities to visit and dive in other unique ocean destinations such as Grand Cayman (I "earned" several company trips through work, over the years) and stayed at the Westin Grand Cayman – one of my favorite destinations. We also visited Bermuda, Cozumel, The Florida Keys, California (La Jolla), and Puerto Rico (El Conquistador Resort which has their own private island, and offers a picture perfect place to snorkel).

After university (during the late 80's), I continued learning as much as I could about cetaceans (in addition to technology – another interest). At Sea World "Multi-species stadium" I was able to work with and train Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) and Pacific black whales (Pseudorca crassidens). Since then, I have humbly made a 180° shift in my views about marine parks (captivity), and now completely support natural habitats. If you haven't seen these movies already, consider watching Blackfish and The Cove.


maxine
One of the "Lags" at Sea World (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens – above)
tursiops-truncatus-kai
One of the many Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)…
sea-world-2
At the time, it was fun and extemely surreal to "work" with these beautiful animals (yes, that's me on the right). The "Lags" (Pacific white-sided dolphins pictured here) were acutely energetic and ultra fast swimmers. Great memories; however, I am now an advocate for change and believe they should all be living in their natural habitat (http://us.whales.org/)…
Orca "Spy-hopping"
Orca "Spy-hopping" …
orca
Beautiful resident orca pod…

 

 

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