Story: Interspecies Communication
An Hour At Sea
By Jeff Marsch (05/12/09 15:09:36)
Related animals: Dolphin, Sea Lion

For this exercise I paddled a kayak about a quarter mile off the coast of La Jolla in San Diego and waited/waded in the water for an hour to see what kind of sea life came my way, and if they were curious or willing to interact. I did not bring a mask, so I was incapable of entering the water to establish direct visual contact. This resulted in me sitting in the kayak and looking down into the water below, or occasionally dipping my body into the water and leaving myself vulnerable without a means for seeing into the water at all. My first submersion made the inability to make visual contact with my potential aquatic friends unnecessary; a pod of Bottlenose dolphins were in the area, and I could hear their echolocative clicks as soon as I put my head under the water. My first instinct was to mimic the sounds I was hearing with a similar set of clicks. For a few minutes the clicking continued, but my calls didn't seem to be attracting the dolphins enough to bring them towards me. After about five minutes of trying the dolphins were out of my earshot, and I got back into the kayak. For the remainder of the time only a few animals came near: a couple of sea lions, a few pelicans, and a school of mackarel. I had thought that the sea lions would come closer as they naturally do, but they stayed their distance about fifteen yards away. Their lack of curiosity on this particular day made me curious as to how I might potentially collaborate with them. I realized that it might be a lot easier to do on land where they are not so flighty and capable of running away so quickly, and also where they are congregated in large numbers and most likely feel more comfortable because of it. However, I don't think that collaborating with sea lions would be as interesting as with dolphins, because while the former share similar behaviors and characteristics with well known terrestrial mammals (canines), the latter are fully aquatic in their physiology and possess a unique and challenging mode of communication (sonar) that could be an excellent medium for an art project.

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