Words and images by Michael Ashton.
The ancient Greeks passed down many fundamental concepts about maths, philosophy, art and culture.
But what is often forgotten is their reverence for dolphins. Greek coins, pottery, art, temples, and mythology are full of dolphin images.
Dolphins’ sonic language or ‘echolocation’ is comprised of clicks and whistles sent in pulses. Dolphins can even use this innate skill to call each other by name. Unlike many of us, dolphins seem to listen to what is communicated before replying.
There are also countless examples of dolphins coming to the aid of humans in need. Californian surfer Todd Endris, mauled and dragged through the water by a Great White shark, would have died. But a pod of dolphins turned up, forming a circular barrier between him and the shark. Thanks to this life-changing experience, Todd is now a vocal opponent of the dolphin slaughter in Taji, Japan.
In another example of dolphins helping humans, a group of researchers on the Californian coast headed by Maddalena Bearzi studied a group of dolphins near shore. Without warning the pod headed off at speed.
The researchers followed, finding the dolphins surrounding a girl. Hypothermic and close to death, they rescued her three miles offshore.
Bearzi says; “Over the years I’ve come to recognise them as individuals, with personalities and emotions”.
In a National Geographic article she goes on to say, “Marine Parks tend to play the research card when asked about dolphin captivity”.
But the conclusion she draws is “it’s really for our entertainment, and making money, lots of it”.
If actions speak louder than words, dolphins have been communicating with our species for thousands of years. For some reason dolphins seem to include us in their societal structure, protecting themselves, others, the young and the vulnerable.
Could levels of compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence be compelling them to come to our rescue, and if so, who are we not to reciprocate? If we don’t, what does that tell us about our own intelligence? Perhaps now we can understand the Greek reverence for dolphins.
Meanwhile in Taji Japan dolphin hunts continue. Herded to shore by high -speed boats they are surrounded, captured, and sold off to the marine park trade. Out of the public eye, the remainder are brutally slaughtered and sold as pet food.
We now have the opportunity to repay a debt, one long overdue and out of balance. Just as dolphins protect us from the dangers of the ocean, we have a duty to ensure we do all we can to protect them from harm.