Saturday, December 31, 2016

Amazing fun Footage of JoJo

Hi All After a brief visit with JoJo and a few taxi rides, we left him to go off to lunch. On our return we gave him a ride again. The other day when I was traveling with Bo and Whizzer, Mark de Fraine came up on his jet ski. He wanted to introduce his sister to the dolphins. He told me about some fun he had with JoJo taking a ride. He sent me the link and I want to share it with you! You have Mark to thank for this! https://www.facebook.com/uniladmag/videos/2384332651589780/ JoJo is the ultimate ham. Dolphins really do know how to have fun! I have to go home for a week but will return to keep you updated!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bo Appears to be Warning JoJo To Stay Away!

Hi All, We are getting a late start this morning however, before we are even in the boat we get a call that three dolphins are near Little Water Cay. John is breaking all speed records as we fly to the marina. There are speed bumps or humps as they call them in Turks along the road to the marina. We sailed over them like they were moguls on a slalom course! Spy Hop has never left the marina so quickly. As we rip out of Leeward and turn right toward Little Water Cay we see a boat milling around in the other direction. It had all the characteristics of a boat with dolphins. We turn around and as we pull up, I see two dorsals. I get in and Bo and Whizzer swim right to me. I have never seen so much flipper footsie in one day. It's as if they were holding hands in this case pecs - Such a sign of affection. Bo then rubbed her pec on Whizzer's head. It looked like she was massaging his melon (dolphin head). Bo then swam to the bottom and lay there like the other day. She blew a big bubble. Just as she did that, JoJo appears. He doesn't swim close to either of them. This was no happy greeting. I think she was warning him to stay away. This time I had my camera and it was working! You will see all of this and it happened twice only the second time Whizzer blew the bubble. I assume this has something to do with timing, whether its Bo not wanting to mate or maybe not wanting JoJo be with Whizzer, I don't know. In any case I have seen JoJo calf sit for Whizzer and be very affectionate with Bo. I'm not sure what's up but I feel it's a timing issue. JoJo eventually leaves following another boat. Wish I knew what was going on! I feel for JoJo. He always gets so excited and happy to see other dolphins.

Bo Seems to be Warning JoJo To stay away from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Once JoJo leaves, Bo and Whizzer move off the bottom and continue their activities. This included Whizzer finding a nice shell with weed growing on it and bringing it to the surface. The next video has the tale end of Bo and Whizzer playing with a ballon fish. It was very deep and murky so you can't see much of it. They had followed the little white ballon fish off and on for quite awhile, sort of nudging it along like a soccer ball! If my free diving skills were better I could have gotten more! They continued along to a reef where they spent a long time scratching in the finger coral. It is a little like an under water ballet, they are so graceful. When they finish scratching, they move off with lots more flipper footsie. Whizzer turns over and gets quite the stimulation from Bo. The researcher Ken Norris's quote "Sex is to dolphins as a hand shake is to humans" came to mind.

Bo and Whizzer play with Ballon fish,scratch on finger coral and ... from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

JoJo, Bo and Whizzer All in One day

Hi All, We found JoJo visiting an Island Vibes boat. He was not interested in getting in our wake. First, he made a few appearances at various boats then started crater fishing in earnest. He started at Ocean Club and fished inside the swim lines all the way to Beaches. He was a few feet from swimmers and kayakers who never noticed! This video shows him swinging his head from side to side echo-locating to find fish under the sand, then diving down catch it. He got a tasty fish about four inches long then swam off to locate more. They eat them head first so all their fins and scales slide down better. Unlike us, dolphins can swallow (esophagus)and breathe (blow hole)at the same time.

JoJo traffic Jam followed by Breakfast from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Later in the day we heard from Rock our buddy on Sail Provo that he's seen the mother and calf. We flew up the coast to the end of Big Water Cay to find them. I had another three hour swim with my dolphin friends. It was once again murky. Whizzer seemed bent on sneaking up on me then coming by as fast and close as possible! He blew bubbles which I caught on video. At one point a boat drove up respectfully to watch the goings on. Bo seemed to want to go fairly close and Whizzer started swimming all around me jumping and flipping over. They seemed to want to put on a show but wanted me to be part of it! Everyday Whizzer seems to let me swim beside him more and more without flying off. I want so much for Bo and him to be able to take JoJo's place when the time comes. The reality is he will probably go off with other juvenile males by the time he reaches three. Maybe Bo will stay on Grace Bay. She's been here now for over four years that I'm aware of.

Bo and Whizzer from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bo Blows Big Bubble, Whizzer is Nuts!

Hi All, Looks like a nice day as we head out of Leeward. I have brought along a friend I met down here but comes from home, Watertown, MA. Once we do the resort dolphin circle which ends up at Leeward, we see huge ugly clouds pretty much everywhere. Now, we are on a sun search! It looks better towards Pine Cay so off we go. We finely find a little sun in the channel between Parrot Cay (movie star island) and Dellis Cay, eat an early lunch and hope the unpredicted rain cloud leaves. It starts to clear and turn into the day that was predicted. Back to the dolphins search. As we are passing Leeward there are two boats with toys tied on the back. The kids are bouncing along through the waves in their respective rafts. They slow down and we see a dorsal in the middle of all this activity. The boats and their rafts go one way and the dolphins go the other. We catch up to two dolphins which are Bo and Whizzer. I'm so excited to see them! It's been a few days and I've missed them. I'm rushing to get in. The water is all churned up from the wind in the past few days but I manage to stay with them. Pretty soon we start to attract a crowd. To be expected. Leeward is where everyone passes through to start or end their day. Bo goes to the bottom and again blows a big bubble but I couldn't hear whistling. After they surface, Whizzer goes nuts flying around, surfacing, falling over backwards, swimming on his back while surfing a wave and doing aerial leaps. What joyous fun he is having! He swims by me and swings his fluke so close it bumps me. I never purposely touch the dolphins but it seems he wants to touch me. I have run into JoJo on occasion but never on purpose. We are heading toward the far end of Pine Cay. I am tired and cold and climb out. I find that snorkeling for long periods of time when its wavy and murky makes me a little sea sick! The dolphins, like the other day don't want me to leave and keep coming to the back of the boat. I hate to disappoint them and really hate to leave them but we have an appointment with the mechanic again for a boat issue and must go.

Bo's Bubble Whizzer's happy Play from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Kayak Found!

Hi All, First thing this morning I hear from a boat captain that the sixty-seven year old man in the orange kayak made it to shore! The wind and the current took him past Turtle Cove and into Crystal Bay where he made it to shore. That area is at the other end of the island from where we were yesterday. A reminder that things can go wrong so quickly on the water. I should also mention that our boat seems to be running just fine after our mechanic, Christian fixed it! We hear from Rock, who is the boat captain of Ariel a large catamaran sail boat that JoJo followed him out of Leeward Channel. We eventually locate him or he locates us! Now he's happily in our wake and we are heading toward Turtle Cove. We see Alive and Direct one of Big Blue's bigger boats. We call to them that JoJo is with us. They come by to see. I then tell them to pull ahead and drop anchor so maybe JoJo will swim with their people. As soon as we stop JoJo swims right over to their boat just as planned. He liked scratching on their anchor line so much he didn't want to come back to us! He gave their people many great chances to film as he swam up to many of them. We decide to head back down the coast and leave him with Big Blue. I was having camera issues and John makes a trip from shore up to our condo for a battery change. When he gets back all sorts of boat captains are signaling that JoJo is down by Beaches. He must have left Alive and Direct and was making his way slowly along the coast. We find him outside of The Sands and he happily takes a lift. Off we go past Pine Cay and Dellis Cay. We really want to be heading home but hate leaving him. No problem he follows us back! He even follows us into Leeward Channel. I have included some video from yesterday. There was so much it was hard to cut it down:)I don't think anything is cuter than Whizzer!

Bo leaves Whizzer with me from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Whizzer and I encounter Barracuda from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

the barracuda in second video appears to be small from far away but he was a s big as Whizzer at least!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

I Love The Dolphins and The Dolphins Love Me!!!

Hi All, We are out early this morning knowing the wind will be building as the day goes on. John's busy fueling up and I'm arranging all the equipment and I see a big ballon fish swim by our hull. A great omen for this day! We go out and start the resort circle. I usually do it twice, just in case. I think sometimes they maybe out closer to the reef so I suggest going way out by the reef on our second pass. It pays off. I see a black streak in the water out by the Reef. I get in and Whizzer is nursing as I come up. They come close for a nice greeting then dive deep to search along the ocean floor for fish. Bo decides to go off and leave Whizzer with me. He comes up to play. I do some free diving for pathetically short periods of times and he watches. He plays with some ocean toys (weeds). We are swimming along when I see a shape heading our way I figure it's Bo but No. It's the hugest barracuda I've ever seen! Oh great I'm in charge off Whizzer will I have to fend off a barracuda? Whizzer luckily didn't want to investigate and changed course, so did the barracuda. My baby sitting skills weren't challenged! We are now on Grace Bay heading past Club Med. Bo has joined us and both dolphins are fishing under some coral. As we get closer to shore near Ocean Club, the water gets murky. John yells to me that he's heard over the radio that a big pod of dolphins are out past the reef at Little Water Cay. Intriguing, but I'm not leaving my friends! A dolphin with you is worth a pod somewhere beyond the reef! We continue past Coral House and toward Leeward. I get out briefly where it's so murky. I can't see a thing. A Big Blue boat joins us. They are the most respectful of the dolphins and of my relationship with them. We are now close enough to the beach that they are attracting a crowd who are following along on the beach. As the water gets slightly clearer I get in again without camera. Now they are heading out where the Beaches Catamaran has spotted them. I think we will be going for a visit but Bo slows down sinks to the bottom and lays there! Dolphins never stop moving or so I thought! She's whistling a lot and keeps whistling then blows a huge bubble. I was getting nervous because that's where we'd seen a Lemon Shark when Terrell was captain on Spy Hop. Whizzer doesn't seem alarmed so I wait and watch. JoJo appears!!!They all swim around happily. Then Bo Whizzer and I continue to Leeward. By now there are lots of boats all watching as we make our way toward Leeward. JoJo goes off to entertain another boat and we don't see him again. I have now worn out both scooters and am totally pooped and freezing. I may have a scooter but I'm always kicking to speed things up. I get on board feeling cold and slightly nauseous. The murky water makes me disoriented and I can get a little nauseous. We stay with the dolphins past leeward and toward Pine Cay.They keep swimming to the back of the boat and spy hoping. I'm upset that I can't get back in when they so obviously are inviting me to stay with them. Over the radio we hear a very frantic call. There is an orange kayak that is missing. The speaker comes on the radio shortly there after and states that there was a man in it. Then he comes on again and states that he's from Club Med, 67 years old and has white curly hair. The wind has picked up significantly and this guy was probably taken by the wind and can't get back. We are too far from Grace Bay to be of any assistance. I'm sitting and watching my friends swimming along at our stern wishing my energy would return (feeling my age!)Another Big Blue boat comes up. We tell them who the dolphins are and how long I've known them etc. One enthusiastic guy gets suited up with his snorkel and Go Pro. I can't tell people not to try because they aren't my dolphins. I am interested to see if in fact they will swim with someone else. The moment the guy enters the water both dolphins sink out of sight, then appear a good distance away. Selfishly this makes me a little happy! The truth of it is, I have swum with JoJo 17 years and it took about 4 years before he made introductions to other dolphins. I think I've earned their trust and friendship! We hear more pleas over the radio to please make contact with any information regarding this orange kayak. Then we hear, whales have been sighted out side the reef along Grace Bay. I have regained some energy but my scooters are dead. We are at the far end of Pine Cay. I think its time to head back with a quick whale check along the reef. A long story with a longer video! To be continued.

Bo leaves Whizzer with me from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Whizzer's Great Leap

Hi All, Normally we would still be on the water, especially with it being calm today however engine trouble has shortened our day. After going past the resorts this morning, we headed out past the reef. He had heard that Big Blue had gotten in the water with a mother and calf yesterday. We put in our hydrophone and listened but didn't hear any whales or dolphins. John went to turn the motor back on and at first it didn't turn over. Not a good feeling especially past the reef!!!It did eventually turn over and we came back past the reef with a big sigh of relief. All seemed good as we headed back past the resorts. I saw two dorsals right at the swim line near Beaches. I got in and Bo came right up. It has been a few days and I was so happy to play with Whizzer. He was his usual crazy man self rocketing toward me then whizzing off. I noticed a new snip at the very end of his right pec and two new nicks on his head. He's so playful, I'm sure he got himself in trouble. I have to say the tiny snip out of his pec will be a way to recognize him in the future when he isn't with Bo. The nicks on his head will heal. He seemed to take great glee in coming out of the water and falling over on his back. We passed by Beaches and went over a large anchor that must have come off a big Beaches boat. You can see it in the video. Bo was going along rather quickly and Whizzer would hang with me then race up to Bo. I had gotten in the boat when we lost sight of them after passing by Seven Stars. We decided to go to Pine Cay have lunch and wait there because they were heading in that direction. When we arrived at Pine Cay, we started toward the reef to check out a possible dolphin sighting and the engine stalled again. Clearly it was time to head in and see if we can get it fixed this afternoon, before it wouldn't turn over at all.

Whizzer's Great Leap from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

JoJo taxi Service

Hi All, The wind is down and its beautiful on the water. We come across JoJo at half Moon Beach and he shows us which way he wants to head and we're off. Lots of tour boats come by with tourists oohing and aahing as he surfaces to breath. He takes us past Turtle Cove into Crystal Bay, branches off for twenty minutes then wants a ride back. On the way back there is a huge rain cloud that luckily we avoided.
We take him to Pine Cay where he hears the barge that moves all sorts of things from North Caicos to Provo. He leaves us in a heartbeat and takes a ride back behind the barge toward Provo! Usually when he uses us in this manner, the next day he makes it up by bringing me for a nice swim. We will see!

Monday, December 19, 2016

JoJo's Cuts Look Great

Hi All, JoJo may have ditched us yesterday out on The South Side but he made up for it today. He stayed with us for over six hours! I chose to leave him in front of Little Water Cay. He wanted to go up and down the coast many, many times! We signaled to various tour boats that we had Jojo with us. They brought their tourists over to uhh and ahh at the famous JoJo. I think we contributed to global warming with all the fuel we used! I was happy to get the chance to check out his cuts up close. He then brought me for a great swim in clear water.

JoJo shows me his cuts that are healing from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

JoJo Wants a Ride to The South Side

Hi All, As we leave the marina, I think I see something in the water maybe a turtle. Apparently it's not a turtle, it's JoJo. He comes right to boat then disappears only to show up again heading toward the South Side. Was he waiting for us?? He knows we always go where ever he wants and he has taken us out the South side before. When he did, he was going to meet a dolphin. Last year, I met Sponge Bob on a trip out the South Side. Another time there were three dolphins by the wreck. I have my hopes up that he's going to take us to either Sponge Bob or someone else. When he follows the boat in shallow water he has to stay out on the side. We head past the wreck that is fairly far out past the conch farm. It is so shallow the prop is dragging in the sand but we can't get going fast enough to get up on a plain or we will lose him. The farther we get from shore the bigger the waves get. We are way past the wreck and I'm looking in the wake but JoJo has branched and I can't find him. We look all over. I'm figuring we will see him with another dolphin but we can't find him. I was hoping for a dolphin meeting but it was not to be.

JoJo Following Spy Hop past Conch Farm from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

More Taxi Rides

Hi All, In fact the wind has come up significantly! After dodging a few rain showers (not gripping could be at home freezing!), we hear from a boat captain JoJo is by Beaches. As we approach Beaches the captain of the snorkel boat radios us that JoJo is swimming around his boat. WE motor out to the boat and I slip in. JoJo wants to swim from the Beaches boat to Spy Hop. I think what he really was waiting for was a ride to Pine Cay. Once they motor off JoJo falls in behind us and we bring him to Pine Cay where we head into a channel and out of the wind. JoJo continues on toward Parrot Cay. It's unfortunate the wind is going to be here for a few days. When John was landing on Provo,the pilot flew quite close to the water. John actually saw spouts from the plane! This is the time the humpback whales are coming south from all along the North Atlantic Coastal waters. They are on their way to the Silver Bank which is in between Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. This is a shallow area where Humpbacks come every year to calve and mate. The migration route passes right along the Turks and Caicos Islands.

JoJo visiting Beaches Dive Boat from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Spy Hop Taxi Service

Hi All, The weather forecast is for a building wind as the day goes. Terrell and I are out early to take advantage of the morning's flat water. We come out of Leeward at the same time as the yellow tour boats are heading out to pick up their passengers. JoJo is waiting and comes right to Spy Hop. He has a plan and we are involved. He gets in our wake wanting to go in the direction of Turtle Cove. He stays in our wake until we are about to enter into Crystal Bay which is miles from where we picked him up. He branches off and does some energetic fishing. I can tell from not only his dives and his breathing that he is going after free swimming fish unlike the fish that are hidden in the sand. He surfaces with a loud blow indicating strenuous swimming in hot pursuit of fish. Then he makes big arch as he uses his fluke to push him way down for a deep dive to hunt for more prey. He surfaces again and chuffs three times. This indicates that he's gotten something down his blow hole and needs to blow it out. It sounds just like a horse snorting. We loose sight of him and start slowly leaving. JoJo knows exactly where we are and doesn't want to miss his ride back. We now see him heading our way. He comes behind Spy Hop and we are off retracing our route. As we get to Beaches, he branches off and swims thru all the swim areas. I believe he's still hungery and crater fishing. He doesn't surface which means he isn't looking for interaction just breakfast. As we motor off, he comes to Spy Hop again. Now he wants to check out Club Med. He does the same thing swimming thru the swim areas and on to Ocean Club. People have spotted him but he isn't interested in any interaction. He heads for the reef and we loose him again. I have gotten word that John has arrived at OC. I call and we plan a pick up at the Club Med dock. Terrell climbs out and John takes over the captain duties. We decide to head for Pine Cay. As we pass Leeward, I spot JoJo. He comes to the back of the boat again! Now, he wants to go north past Pine Cay! We are getting low on fuel and the wind as predicted has come up. John sees a sail boat and we decide to take him as far at the boat and turn around. As we pull up, I yell over the wind that we are delivering a dolphin! As JoJo realizes we aren't going any further he heads in the direction of the sail boat! We were pretty much at his beck and call all day!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

JoJo's Cuts

Hi All, Wow what a day! Gorgeous water, flat and clear. I have two great friends with me in Spy Hop, Mike Rosatti and Di. The pressure is on to find JoJo! Right out of Leeward I think I see a dolphin wahoo! No actually it's a really large shark who apparently just ate some fish because he smells really fishy! He was right on the surface fooling me into thinking he was a dolphin! I figure it's a good omen for more adventures! After making the usual pass down Grace Bay, we head up toward Pine Cay and there we find a very friendly JoJo visiting a Big Blue boat. He comes right over to Spy Hop. I got in and swim with him for a very long time. His cuts are healing appropriately. The white stringy stuff coming out of his cuts is called fibrin connective tissue. It is a sign that they are healing. Both Di and Mike got a chance for a swim with him as well. I have known Mike for years. He is a wealth of knowledge of all things related to the sea. In the early days before I had a boat, Mike ran the water sports at Ocean Club, he was a major JoJo spotter . After I bought my first boat, he would radio from the beach if JoJo was passing by! JoJo has now attracted a crowd and there are boats all over the place coming to see the famous JoJo. Eventually he comes back to Spy Hop and we continue all the way to the end of Grace Bay where he wants to turn around and head back! He stays in our wake until we get by the reef in front of Ocean Club where he seems to want to hang. This is a good moment to leave and head to Pine Cay. Truthfully when it's as gorgeous as today, there are so many options it's hard to decide what would be the most FUN. I had heard from a fisherman that they were seeing spouts! So we head out past the reef along Pine Cay. It's early for the whales to be arriving but you never know! Terrell reminded me that he needs to get back early because its election day in Turks and Caicos and he needs to vote. We go in toward shore and start heading back until I see a dorsal! We find Whizzer and Bo. When I get in they are swimming together and Whizzer didn't come flying over in his usual crazy man state. I notice his eyes are half closed. He is in sleep mode. After swimming with them for about five minutes, he comes alive and does his circling, spy hopping, flipping over backwards and porpoising out of the water! Bo seems a little put out with him and chases him around with her mouth open. In the mean time the Meridian Club water taxi motors up to watch all the fun. The Captain asks me if I speak dolphin :)I head to Spy Hop so Terrell can get back to vote. The dolphins delivered today!

JoJo cuts are healing from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

JoJo

Hi All,
It is a great day on the water. Not much wind to speak of which means no wind driven waves. The kite boarders are unhappy and I'm thrilled! I have brought two great friends, Suz and Ted that have a home here on Provo. They would very much like to see JoJo. We go up and down the coast then to Pine Cay where we anchor and have a spectacular dinning area for lunch! How lucky are we to sit on Spy Hop watching Ospreys soar over head while munching on our sandwiches. We head back down the coast toward Leeward. I'm disappointed I haven't been able to find a single dolphin. I tell them we are taking one more pass by the resorts where JoJo maybe hanging out. I see him right outside of The Sands. He comes right to the boat looking like he wants a ride. He gets in our wake as far as 7 Stars and disappears. I could see from the boat, two big gashes that are repairing. The white stringy stuff is coming out of them. I know it isn't nearly as bad as last time because he's following the boat. I'm hoping tomorrow I'll find him and swim with him to get a better look.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Nice Greeting from Bo and Whizzer

Hi All, After a quick trip home, I'm off to Blue Haven to meet Terrell.He will be my boat captain for a few days. He knows the routine with scooters and cameras. As we are loading all the equipment, a boat captain comes by and tells me he saw JoJo a few days ago and he has a big gash. I figure if it's as bad as last time he will be hanging by the swim lines as he did in the past. We motor out of Leeward and head toward the resorts. I'm watching closely to see if he's hanging near the swim lines. We turn around after passing all the resorts. I'm not sure whether to be relieved he wasn't there or worried we can't find him. On our way back, I notice a big catamaran motor boat stopped in an odd place out by the reef. As we approach, I see one dorsal than another. I ask Terrell to hand me a scooter as I slip in the water. Whizzer and Bo are waiting at the back of the boat. Bo greets me then has other business to attend to. She leaves Whizzer with me. He is taking great glee in sneaking up on me from behind and whizzing under me so close I can feel the rush of water. The water is so crystal clear out by the reef. Whizzer starts crater fishing in the dazzling white sand. He now doesn't just mimic BO he is actually catching fish. I know this is a huge step toward his going out on his own. I selfishly want him to stay with Bo as long as possible. I get to swim with him for a long time before I loose sight of him in a reef. He joins up with Bo and they go on their way. We look for JoJo but can't seem to find him. I will be out on the water at the crack of dawn to find JoJo.

Greet Greeting From Whizzer from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Oh MG

Hi All, This is what I wait for! This is the best!!! It's our last day before heading home for a few weeks. We head out of Leeward searching Grace Bay in front of all the resorts then head all the way up past Pine Cay. I'm hoping to find dolphins out by the reef where we have been finding them before. The sun is glistening on the water and although the wind is making it cold the spectacular color of the sky and water are amazing. I'm thinking how lucky we are to be here away from the gloomy grey weather at home. I'm looking to warm up so we head into the channel between Dellis Cay and Fort George Cay. After a brief lunch sitting in the sun we start heading out the channel. I see a dolphin coming our way. It acts like JoJo but I don't think it's him. I get in and find Whizzer and Bo. Bo was the one who seemed to be showing herself as if to say, "here I am". They are behaving very differently than usual. Lots of circling, Bo coming right by me, not the usual slow traveling with Whizzer darting all over. Bo seems to be reprimanding Whizzer. I captured it on the video at the very end.

My Movie from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

They start moving off very slowly toward Pine Cay. The water is shallow and Whizzer and I have some fun circling and looking at things on the ocean floor. I look up to see where John and Spy Hop are. He points behind me and suddenly two really big dolphins coming rocketing by! After much swirling around and whistling I recognize Lemon Lips who I haven't seen since last December! He is accompanied by another big dolphin that I think might be B. B. Tip, who is Raggedy Ann's son. Lemon Lips starts swimming really fast toward the surface. I look up just in time to see him fly out of the water! Luckily the camera hasn't run out of battery yet so you can see it in the video. They all seem not only glad to see each other but glad to see ME. Lemon Lips and I play our old game of whirl around in circles. He lets me swim right beside him just like JoJo. He is such a good brother to Whizzer who was seriously horney! Dolphins are very sexual and don't have any of the rules of conduct the way we humans do. So if it feels good just do it! I had been swimming with them for a long time (the better part of 3 hours!) and am getting cold and tired. I climb back on our boat. I have now gone through one scooter and one camera! All four dolphins come to the back of the boating wait. They want me back in! They are spy hoping and swimming so close. I take a short break then slip in again with another scooter and camera. This is an invitation I can't refuse. The five of us continue down Pine Cay. Lemon Lips spots a ray in the sand and they all go down to investigate. What an unbelievable honor to accompany these dolphins as they make their way down the coast. I wore out three scooters and two cameras while having a great time. Another boat came by while I was resting. They put swimmers in the water and the dolphins left. I'm thrilled I got three glorious hours that I will never forget.

Oh MG 1 from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Island Entertainment

Hi All, My friends Abby and Robin who are tuned into island events on shore, invited us to a fund raiser for the TC (Turks and Caicos) SPCA. The organization does an amazing job taking care of the huge population of feral dogs and cats on the island. They also have programs to help save the endangered rock iguanas and the horses and donkeys on Grand Turk. We walked into the large auditorium with over 400 happy people all here to support the TCSPCA. The performance was CABARET. Who would have guessed there was so much talent on the island! The singing was great, mostly done by none other than Josie who teaches free diving and is the "mermaid" that entertains passengers on the Undersea Explorer! The dancers were terrific all wearing great costumes which must be hard to figure out on island! The whole place went wild at the conclusion. No one wanted it to end! This island has a large population of fun people that really support important issues. It was a real tribute to the TCSPCA. On another note, I mentioned we hadn't seen the iguanas at all this trip and I've received had some questions about them. Here's a picture. We went back again to be sure they were ok and saw this male and a female come along hoping for hand outs.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

JoJo Bo and Whizzer

Hi All, Yesterday, the weather was so nasty that frankly I hoped I wouldn't see a dolphin! (yes that's a first!) We took one pass down the coast then holed up in the channel. We did a little raisin-training when one hungry big male iguana came to visit. Today however it's warmer the wind is only 20 mph and there is some sun. Leeward Cut is looking much more inviting. We head out toward the resorts and JoJo seems to be waiting for us. He heads right to our boat with energetic pump of his tail, flips over and glides under the boat while we are motoring along. I know he's done it a million times but I still hold my breath. We figure out he wants to go toward Pine Cay. We adjust our direction accordingly and head into the wind and waves. The big sailing catamarans glide through the waves but Spy Hop bucks up and down spraying us with each big roller. Once we get to the end of Pine cay JoJo wants to return down the coast! We figure out why he's searching when we see two dorsals bobbing up and down out near the reef. In the mean time we'd talked to Rock captain of Sail Provo on the radio telling him JoJo and a mother and calf are in the area. He sails his big catamaran over. All the dolphins are now swimming around the catamaran. I think the Rock is telling his passengers that the (crazy) lady in Spy Hop swims with these dolphins. I think he was hoping for a show! I oblige and climb in. JoJo comes right up and takes me to Bo and Whizzer. I have a few nice swims although the waves make it hard to find them. We loose them as they make their way toward the end of Pine Cay.

JoJo Whizzer and Bo In huge waves from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

JoJo and Whizzer's Bruises

Hi All, It's a sunny but windy day here on Provo. We decide to stay in instead of battling the waves. This gives me some time to report my finding on JoJo's abrasion that you might have noticed in the videos. Whizzer also has a mark on his right side. When I see any cuts that I have a question or concern about I ask Mark the well known and respected island vet to take a look at the pictures and give me information. "JoJo's looks like a linear scrape with an abscess type lesion in the middle of it. (He) may have bumped into something like a sharp piece of coral or rock, and a small piece of it got imbedded and is working its way out. Either way, looks like an older injury that is on the mend. The younger one's marks could be also from sharp coral or even a wreck piece or possibly a set of teeth either in play or anger. It too is older."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Another JoJo Day

Hi All, We leave Leeward Cut laden with cameras, water scooters and wetsuits. It's still cool but the sun is shining making the water glisten. We have invited our good friends Abby and Robin who own a house on Long Bay. They have come with hopes of swimming with the famous JoJo. After one trip up and down the coast, I suggest making the trip again before heading up to Pine Cay. Our friends are beginning to think they are bad luck. I pointed out it was only ten am and there was lots of time for the search. Shortly there after JoJo pops up clearly wanting a ride. After one false start, John figures out which way JoJo wants to go. All is well until White Sands comes along. She is a large catamaran yacht and a favorite of JoJo's. JoJo makes a beeline for their wake. They actually turn around to accommodate JoJo's desire to go toward Turtle Cove. I know they will have to turn around soon and resume the route they were originally on. Andy our friend and Captain of White Sands is familiar with JoJo's catching a ride in his wake. As predicted his passengers tire of watching JoJo in their wake and are ready to resume their trip in the other direction up the coast. JoJo now waits for us to come past and gets in our wake. Before we reach Beaches, JoJo wants to do some visiting so he branches off. I suggest to Abby and Robin to get in because this might be their best chance to swim with him. JoJo swims around checking out his new admirers before heading out with me to check out a buoy. We play a little "bang the buoy" before he heads out to surf a wave. As always, I get left behind when goes off to surf. Once he's surfed a few waves he's ready to continue down the coast, past Turtle Cove and into Crystal Bay. John picks his way through the coral heads until we are almost opposite Northwest Point Resort which is almost at the end of Provo. There JoJo goes into sleep mode where he circles our boat for over an hour. When dolphins into sleep mode they are resting half their brain with the other half watching out for predators. This once again gives Robin and Abby plenty of opportunity to swim with JoJo. It is now my chance to have a long swim with JoJo who has come out of sleep mode and wants to slowly make his way back toward Turtle Cove. The great part about this stretch of water is the coral heads make the boating tricky which keeps most boats away from this area. We have a long swim with a stop to scratch in the finger coral. I can barely see the boat we have traveled so far. I signal John to come pick me up before he looses sight of us completely. As soon as he starts the motor, JoJo turns to cut off Spy Hop so he can take a ride! We have now been with him for almost five hours. My friends have an appointment so we head in leaving JoJo in front of Beaches. https://vimeo.com/192553668

A day with JoJo from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

More Whizzer

Hi All, Another windy day in paradise, it seems we are in a weather pattern that won't go away! Apparently the wind is supposed to strengthen for tomorrow which is good news for the kite boarders but not great for dolphin sightings! We traveled up and down the coast and as we were heading past Ocean Club John noticed a dorsal. We had a short visit from Whizzer before Bo his mom called him away. We had no idea which way they went and never found them again. The murky water was no help. https://vimeo.com/192694131 Whizzer

Whizzer and Jay from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dolphin Days

Hi All, A cold front has indeed moved in. The sun however, is shining which makes a huge difference. Just like everyday this week, bright and early the water is pretty flat as we come out of Leeward Cut. We turn down the coast passing all the resorts without seeing a dorsal. As we swing around to come back the wind is starting to kick up. I decide, no dorsals, lets go out the South side where it will be flat. I know, more than likely we won't see any dolphins but I'm dying to be warm and not bounced around. After a brief visit to the wreck, we decide to head all the way up the back or south side to the channel between Fort George Cay and Dellis Cay. We haven't gone that way for quite awhile and hope the channel hasn't moved. The water is so shallow I pretty much hold my breath the whole way! If one looses heart and slows down, thereby having your boat come off the plane, you can count on remaining there until the next high tide! We make it in the cut without incident. It's the perfect place to have lunch. We are surrounded by beautiful turquoise water and pristine beaches. After lunch, we start heading back down the North or front side. I'm looking out by the reef where we have seen dolphins before. I see a dorsal. As soon as we locate the dorsal amongst the fairly large waves a little dorsal pops up right in front of our boat. Of course it's Whizzer! How lucky are we, to find them miles away from where we found them yesterday! When I get in I notice a cut on his right side which obviously isn't bothering him. By the time I get my gear on, he has gone down to Bo who is crater fishing. There are lots of Sea Biscuits on the ocean floor.I always think I'll come back and dive for some but the reality is we can never figure out just where we were! Eventually Bo and Whizzer move off through the big waves and we loose sight of them. We head back along the coast were the water is flatter. Just as we are about to get to Half Moon Beach which is almost at the end of Pine Cay, we see JoJo. We pass over him and he gets in our wake. He takes a ride past Leeward Cut then past most of the resorts. He branches and swims a little way toward the reef where he turns around and surfs a wave coming in. This is a form of dolphin fun. They just don't need a surf board. He spends quite a bit of time swimming out then surfing back. This is not a good time to swim with him because you can't keep up! I get my chance later when he comes over to our boat. We are now in front of Beaches Resort where there is a lot of boat traffic. Even with John looking out for me, I look up frequently to be sure I'm not going to be run over by a tour boat! I didn't think we were going to have a good dolphin day but it turned out to be a great dolphin day. Everyday I hope to see Raggedy Ann. She is Bo's best friend and JoJo's most favorite lady dolphin. She lost her calf two summers ago. I saw her last with Bo, Whizzer and JoJo a year ago. I hope she is okay and that she'll show up with JoJo one day. https://vimeo.com/192395465 The whole story!

Bo Whizzer and JoJo. from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bo and Whizzer

Hi All, The good news is it's sunny today. The bad news is we have the same wind getting stronger as the day goes on. Our strategy is get up early (that would be easy for ME) and be out there when the water is still flat before the wind kicks it up. Our strategy worked. John saw a little dorsal outside of Seven Stars. It was of course Whizzer. I had some fun with him before Bo called him to hurry up and swim with her. Once we caught up with them and Bo seemed to be doing a little fishing, I got in again. We had some quality time! Bo let me swim with her like JoJo does while Whizzer darted all over occasionally scaring me as he zipped in from behind going full throttle! Once he gets to Bo he always snuggles with her. Maybe someday he'll snuggle with me! As we approached Coral Gardens, a nice resort that has their own reef that is right in front, they disappeared. Since the waves were only getting bigger and the wind stronger, now was a great time to go back in the protected channels. I had brought along a few things for the iguanas but we didn't see any. It was gorgeous back there and I soaked up enough rays to finally warm up. https://vimeo.com/192270732 Bo and Whizzer

Bo and Whizzer from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bonanza JoJo and Whizzer!!

Hi All, Despite the high winds and big waves we were able to locate JoJo. He was swimming in front of the resorts on Grace Bay. He seemed to be going from buoy to buoy. Looking at buoys is a favorite activity of his. He especially likes it when I kick or push the buoy making it sway and bob in the water. I call the game "bang the buoy"! Today I didn't need to do anything since the waves were moving the buoys without my help. JoJo has what looks like a puncture wound on his left side. Compared to the many other cuts he has sustained, this is minor. JoJo seemed content to just hang around the area near Seven Stars. We offered him a ride in a couple of different directions but he wasn't interested. We eventually lost him in the high waves and murky water. I climbed on Spy Hop and tried to get warm. Just as I took off my wetsuit, got into a warm dry sweatshirt, a rain slicker and was starting to warm up, we see another dorsal and then a little dorsal! No wonder JoJo had been hanging around looking at buoys. He was waiting for Bo and Whizzer to show up! I tore off my nice warm cloths and slipped in. I would never miss the chance to swim with my little friend, Whizzer. He put on another nice show, swimming all around mostly upside down. He even blew more bubbles, swam up and then popped them. Toward the end I think Bo told him to come to her because he took off like a shot and we didn't see either of them again. We did however find JoJo again who, this time did want a ride past Turtle Cove and into Crystal Bay. The wind and waves were getting higher and JoJo decided to head off in another direction. We decided we had fulfilled our duty giving him a ride and we headed for home. https://vimeo.com/192209096 JoJo https://vimeo.com/192186003 Whizzer more bubbles

Thursday, November 17, 2016

JoJo Finds Me!!

Hi All, Truly today is not a good boating day! The sky is grey, the wind is getting stronger and stronger. Our boat is bouncing all over. We head out anyway toward Beaches. As we approach Grace Point, the condo is starting to look pretty good. I say to John who is feeling a bit under the weather anyway, lets turn around and head home. Now I'm huddled up looking out the back doing my best not to get any wetter, when I see a grey shape behind the boat!! JoJo has found us and is taking a ride! Bo and Whizzer must told him I was around! As we are rolling about in the sea I see a tour boat coming up behind us with some crazy tourists getting really wet and swaying erratically with each roller I imagine there was a bit of alcohol involved because they all looked quite happy. I signaled to the Captain that JoJo was with us and he came by so the tourists could see the famous JoJo. I'm sure that was the high point of their otherwise cold and wet day on the boat! https://vimeo.com/191983782

JoJo Found Me from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

An Afternoon with Bo and Whizzer

Hi All, I have set the bar high with first a JoJo,Whizzer and Bo day, then a spotted dolphin day. We spend the morning on the hunt for JoJo. We heard from various boat captains that he was on Grace Bay later in the day yesterday while we were playing with spotted dolphins. I start thinking up fun things to do to fill up our day in case we can't find him til afternoon. We get off the boat on Dellis Cay where there is a building project that failed leaving a monstrosity of  halfway built houses over looking the ocean. If nothing else, they are a great landmark if you have become disoriented on the water. They are also a good place to get out of the rain if you get stuck out that way. Our Captain knows where the old cannons from the days of pirates are in front of Fort George Cay. We get in the water in front of Fort George Cay and find the cannons which are now covered in various ocean jewelry. I know this is a meeting place for dolphins so I'm procrastinating getting on the boat hoping someone may show up. Just as I climb in Spy Hop I see a dorsal which turns out to be two dorsals. Bo and Whizzer are by themselves today. I don't need any help from JoJo to swim with them. Actually Bo swims with me just as close as when I swim with JoJo. Whizzer of course is all over the place circling whizzing by upside down, zooming off, snuggling with mom etc. He checks in with Bo and they caress each other with their flippers. I finally get footage of Whizzer nursing it's like they wanted me to see because Bo flips over so I got a perfect view. Whizzer finds never ending amusement at nibbling his Mom's pec. I see a large contingent of jet skis coming. They respectfully slow down and Bo takes us over for a look, much to the delight of the jet ski riders. There is no better way to spend an afternoon than with dolphins! I could show you reams of footage but it was murky and it takes forever to publish from the island! You will see lots of Whizzer who is so easy to film. https://vimeo.com/171039895

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My First Trip Down and a great Greeting From Bo and Whizzer

Hi All, Today isn't the most beautiful for Turks but the sea is flat. I haven't seen JoJo since last June and couldn't find him yesterday. We have the lady on board that told me about Turks and Caicos over 20 years ago. She is a travel agent from Massachusetts and has been following my blogs. The pressure is on to find some dolphins! After heading out of Leeward we follow the shore toward Turtle Cove, all eyes on the water. No Dolphins! We head back past Leeward gesturing to all tour boat captains to see if they have seen JoJo. They all give the arms out where's JoJo? gesture back. Now we are traveling along Pine Cay the beautiful private island where a few lucky people have houses. I see a dorsal out toward the reef. John skillfully maneuvers Spy Hop toward the dorsal. There are two dorsals. I whip on my flippers, grab my camera hope, I don't forget how to turn it on to the right program and slip in. John hands me my water scooter and I'm off to see if I know these dolphins. They let me come right up to them, of course it's Bo and Whizzer. Who else would be so trusting. Whizzer is in the usual traveling calf position right under Bo's belly. Bo glances back to see if it's me and lets me come close. Pretty soon she heads to the bottom to crater fish. Apparently this is Whizzer's cue to come see me. Bo eventually leaves for a long period of time leaving Whizzer to play with me. Whizzer has grown at least a foot in length and is heavier than when I last saw him in June. He has a bruise along his body that didn't break the skin. He seems to be trying to see how close he can whiz past me without running into me! Two tour boats have noticed our boat has stopped and come to see if we have found dolphins. Whizzer shows off a little riding the bow wave but returns to me. Bo in the mean time has returned to be sure all's ok with Whizzer.Once the tour boats leave Whizzer comes over and blows some really big bubbles, he then travels to the bottom and blows three more! I managed to get this on film. I notice there is lightening heading our way and decide we'd best head to shore but not before thanking my dolphin friends for an amazing morning in their company. I am hoping they tell JoJo I'm back in town! https://vimeo.com/191902975 our first meeting https://vimeo.com/191898263 Whizzer blowing bubbles!

Whizzer blows Bubbles from Jay Sargent on Vimeo.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Last Day of a great Trip

Hi All,
This week has gone by so fast with so many dolphin encounters. I'm hoping my last day can measure up! We head out with Captain Terrell at the helm. After our usual dolphin circle we head up to Dellis Cay where we have found Bo and Whizzer almost everyday. I really wish I would see Raggedy Ann with them. She is Bo's best friend. I either see her with JoJo and or Bo. She lost her calf late last summer.
As we approach the channel between Dellis and Parrot Cay, I see one big dorsal and one little one. It is Bo and Whizzer but no JoJo or Raggedy Ann. Once again swimming with them is hard because of the murky water. We see some weather heading our way and decide to head back. I bid them goodbye and hope to see them upon my return in November.
When the weather clears, my friend James and I decide to head out past the reef. We are hoping to find another pod of dolphins. We get lucky as we are heading back from North West Point and see dorsals heading our way. There's a pod of seven bottle nose dolphins. They rivaled the fun loving spotted dolphins with their aeriel feats. They weren't quite as good at racing our boat but gave it a good effort.
For anyone wondering when to come to Turks and Caicos, I strongly suggest summer! I will be counting the days until I come back to see my friends in November.
video

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer in Turks and Caicos

Hi All,
Despite some equipment issues. We get out on the water with a healthy engine. After our usual dolphin loop, we head toward Pine Cay where we have been finding Bo and Whizzer. As we pass by the cliffs of Pine Cay, we see many Tropic Birds with their long tails swooping down to check on their chicks. They are pelagic birds who have come to nest in the crevices of the cliffs that line the beach. They have their babies then when the chicks are old enough they return to life on the ocean.
As we come around Fort George and head toward Dellis Cay I see a dorsal, then two more. We motor up and I get. The water is really murky and almost impossible to see even an arms length. Then disaster hits! Not just one but both water scooters are totally dead. I swim like mad without. It took awhile for Whizzer to realize the swimmer with flailing arms is me! In the video you will see how murky it is.
We watch as JoJo suddenly flys along toward Bo. They start fishing with a vengeance. I think they were waiting at the entrance to the channel between Parrot Cay and Fort George for fish to swim by. They quiet down again and our boat Captain, Terrell points out a dark shape coming our way. It's a nurse shark heading toward the dolphins. JoJo takes off to ward it off. He loves to harass nurse sharks. The nurse shark changes direction. JoJo has completed his tasks:herding fish to Bo, warding off nurse sharks entertaining various tour boats. He is ready to go back to Grace Bay. That's where we come in! I see him heading away from the others toward Fort George. I ask Terrell to pass him so he can fall in behind our boat. He does and off we go to Grace Bay with JoJo. He branches off

before Beaches and we find him playing with another boat. I get in and drag behind the boat holding onto a line that is attached to the stern the boat, JoJo comes beside me. When my arms get tired,.  I let my guests take a turn. It's now late and Terrell has another job to get to. I don't think my guests will soon forget today! https://vimeo.com/171253045

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spotted Dolphins-party dolphins

Hi All,
Another absolutely gorgeous day, no wonder there are so many tourists in the tour boats. I'm thinking JoJo might meet us in the same place as yesterday but apparently he has other engagements. After a few trips up and down Grace Bay, we venture out toward North West Point. I have been able to find large pods of dolphins in that general direction before.
I'm sure my friends are wondering why we are going so far with nothing insight but the big blue ocean. Our Captain who is excellent at spotting sees something ahead. Everyone perks up. First one dorsal comes in sight then many. We start racing them, then circling they are leaping out of the water so close and so high you could touch them! Everyone going nuts trying to film. Of course you are always pointing your camera where they just leaped!
I try getting in but this pod isn't as friendly as the last pods I'd met. Two of them seem to take to me one has a remora attached to his belly. In the past many had surrounded me but this pod really liked racing the boat best. We obliged and played with them for hours before heading home. https://vimeo.com/170931427<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/170927688" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Whizzer!!!!!

Hi All,
This is the first trip since Feb. I'm flying down thinking how much I miss JoJo and how I'd love to see Whizzer who would be almost a year old.
It always starts the same. Scooters, radios and cameras to charge. There is usually some glitch with something, this trip Jet Blue informed me at 4:30 am that they didn't take boxes. I had a water scooter that needed repairing all packed up with various bathing suits wrapped around it. I asked if I could store it somewhere seeing they wouldn't let me check it. They replied "NO call someone and have them pick it up!" Now I have some pretty terrific friends but that would be pushing it. I ended up repacking everything, checking my suitcase and attempting to carry the water scooter with me thru security. Despite some pretty weird looks, I made it on.
Summer in Turks is positively glorious. The water is delightfully warm and usually calm. I'm in my element. I've hired a boat Captain and brought along a few friends who are anxious to see JoJo.
We pick up the boat from Caicos Marina where we keep it stored and make our way out Leeward Channel. I've been dreaming of this since February. As we head out and turn left to motor down Grace Bay I see some trash bobbing in the water and we head over to retrieve it. Just as we start up I notice a boat captain pointing toward shore. There's a familiar dorsal heading our way. I get in as fast as humanly possible to greet my friend. I always check him out first to see if there are any new cuts. I see a gash on his back that doesn't look to deep and one in front of his pec that is a little nastier. He also has a scrape on his dorsal. Dolphins heal amazingly quickly and I've seen much worse. JoJo seems to want to take a ride so I climb in Spy Hop and JoJo gets in his usual place behind the boat.
After a few trips up and down the island he opts to play with another boat. Then he goes to another boat, I'm wondering why he isn't staying with us until I see him swim off toward two dorsals. He was biding his time until they showed up.
I don't think I have animal communication skills but it seems pretty amazing that after 5 months of being away I can step off the plane, get in a boat and see my two favorite dolphins within hours of leaving Rhode Island! Whizzer has not forgotten me. He's flying around me in tight circles then zooming off to Bo his mom. This is quite the beginning to a week in Turks! I tried to keep the video short enough so it would publish but there was so much great stuff to choose from because the water was clear and the dolphins so friendly! Notice Whizzer is definitely a boy!!
https://vimeo.com/170869394

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

War Dolphins We humans even Drag Dolphins Into Our Fights when they are clearly pacifists

Some Historically Fueled Guesses on What Russia Will Do With Its War Dolphins

1869812JH001_dolphins
K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin attached to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3, leaps out of the water while training near the USS Gunston Hall in the Persian Gulf in 2003.
U.S. Navy
Earlier this month, the Russian government announced it was looking to buy five combat dolphins: two females and three males, physically unblemished, and in possession of “perfect teeth.” Naturally, Russia did not reveal what it planned to do with the dolphins. That allowed the Internet to have a field day speculating for what nefarious tasks these dolphins might be used—including recovering sunken torpedoes, killing enemy divers, or planting bombs.
Rachel E. GrossRACHEL E. GROSS
Rachel E. Gross is a Slateeditorial assistant. 
But Russia wasn’t being serious, right? Well, actually, it probably was. For Russia, dolphin deployment is nothing new: During the Cold War, the country used these slippery soldiers to do things like detect submarines, flag mines, and protect ships and harbors, according to retired colonel Viktor Baranets. In fact, countries have been enlisting these smart, adaptable creatures to perform underwater military tasks for more than 50 years.
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But let’s be clear: Assembling a dolphin army wasn’t the Russians’ idea. It was ours.
The story of America's war dolphins starts innocently enough. In 1960, military researchers wanted to design better missiles. And dolphins—graceful, lithe, aerodynamic in the water—seemed like the perfect animal to imitate. However, upon examining a female Pacific white-sided dolphin named Notty, researchers quickly realized that dolphins weren’t just well-designed. “They were also trainable, and adaptable, and amenable to training,” says Ed Budzyna, a Navy spokesman. “That led to ... other things.”
“Other things” became the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Training Program in San Diego, California, which today houses 85 bottlenose dolphins. (This is down from peak-marine mammal reserves, which occurred in 1995 when the U.S. possessed more than 150 trained dolphins and belugas and nearly 50 sea lions.) Before settling on dolphins, the Navy also tried out other marine mammals. For example, they found that killer whales could recover objects at depths of 1,654 feet, while white whales, or belugas, could dive up to 2,100 feet. But when it came to precision, no other cetacean could outperform the dolphin. 
The choice to use dolphins to perform military tasks is a logical one, says Terrie Williams, a large mammal physiologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz who has studied dolphins since 1990. “If you wanted a water watchdog, that’s what I would choose,” she says. She should know: Williams, who has published studies on dolphin diving physiology, worked as a researcher in the Marine Mammal Program during the 1990s. Why not sharks? “For the obvious reasons,” she says—training sharks is both harder and potentially more dangerous. 
Navy dolphins are trained mainly in two tasks, neither of which involve combat. First, they are taught to find underwater mines—often ones that are tricky to locate, half-buried, and hundreds of meters deep—so that the Navy can map their presence and avoid them in combat. Second, they learn to flag the presence of enemy swimmers, again to alert the Navy rather than attack. To do this, dolphins work with handlers, who equip them with conical buoys around their snouts. When a dolphin finds a swimmer, it releases the buoy, which floats up and flashes so forces can find the swimmer.
In these arenas, dolphins have two qualities that make them unbeatable: diving and sonar. Like most cetaceans—the order of marine mammals that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises—dolphins can dive deep, for up to 10 minutes at a time. Once they have identified an underwater object, they can reach it quickly and efficiently. But their sonar, says Williams, is "off the charts." She describes dolphin sonar as akin to being able to take X-ray after X-ray of your surroundings and then compiling them into a 3-dimensional picture.
“We barely have calibers to measure the way these animals are able to differentiate between things in the water," she says. "No technology has been able to match it yet.” 
In other words, they're basically the world’s best fetchers.
Budzyna agrees. As technology gets better, it’s possible that the Marine Mammal Program will be rendered obsolete, he says. But right now, when it comes to locating underwater objects—and particularly enemy swimmers, who are more dynamic and unpredictable than stationary mines—you just can’t beat dolphins. “They’re just extremely well-adapted to their environment,” he says.
So even though the Marine Mammal Program has been around since 1960, its dolphins have never actually seen combat, says Budzyna. The closest they’ve gotten was during the Vietnam War, when they were deployed to protect ships and submarines at the American base in Cam Rahn Bay. This happened again during the Iran-Iraq war, when they were used to watch vessels and a floating helicopter platform in the Persian Gulf, according to the New York Times. Additionally, during the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego, dolphins and their handlers were on standby in the waters next to the Convention Center, according to Budzyna—but fortunately, their services weren't needed.
In the 1980s, the Navy flirted with the idea of using dolphin guards to patrol the Trident nuclear submarine base in Washington. According to the Times, the dolphins would “detect possible saboteurs.” That plan was foiled by animal rights activists, who sued in 1989, blaming the death of one dolphin during training on the Navy’s allegedly cruel practice of making warm-water animals work in icy conditions in Puget Sound. The Navy settled the suit, agreeing to both suspend the project and stop taking dolphins from the wild.
On purely emotional grounds, there is something perverse about the idea of using a dolphin as an instrument of war. We’re taught to think of dolphins as the hippies of the animal kingdom: social, emotional, gregarious, giddy. They break into chirping laughter. They protect their loved ones. They even practice free love. When we picture a dolphin, we see a playful creature bobbing above the water’s surface, mouth broken open in what we see as a wide, toothy grin. (That's to say nothing of their renowned intelligence and prodigious memories.)
The U.S. has always claimed that it has never trained dolphins to kill. It has made this assertion despite the fact that former Navy dolphin trainers have said otherwise, including Richard L. Trout, a civilian mammal trainer for the Navy from 1985 to 1989, who told the New York Times in 1990 that Navy dolphins “were learning to kill enemy divers.” But using dolphins for combat purposes “just wouldn’t make sense,” says Budzyna, who believes much of this speculation came out of the 1973 movie The Day of the Dolphin. “They’re not trained to make decisions,” he says. “So it would be ridiculous to expect them to make choices underwater as to whether it’s a friend or a foe and what they should do about it.”
But Russia, which started investing in marine mammal programs in 1965 after witnessing the U.S.’s success, has made no such promises. So could Russia be training its war dolphins to kill enemy divers? I asked Williams how dolphins might be used for more odious porpoises—I mean, purposes—than flagging mines. After dismissing the idea of equipping dolphins with knives or bullets on their heads as “pretty far-fetched,” Williams did admit that, conceivably, you might train dolphins to ram an enemy swimmer as they do sharks in the wild, butting them again and again with their hard snouts.
“Are they capable of doing it? Yeah,” she says. “They can bust up a shark pretty good.”
But in the wild, ramming a shark isn't a common occurrence, it’s a desperate measure of self-defense. Since their heads house their delicate sonar equipment, dolphins are more likely to protect it rather than repeatedly bash it against something, Williams says. And beyond ramming, a dolphin doesn’t have aggressive jaw capabilities; their teeth are meant merely for grabbing fish, not ripping and tearing. “There are behaviors you can build off of,” Williams says. “But the training would be hard for the animal. Not because it’s a pacifist, but simply because it’s not built to do those kind of tasks.”
Don’t just take it from her. As other former military experts told the Times, dolphins are simply too “benign and unreliable” to perform these kinds of tasks. Perhaps the most adorable testament, from Trout:
''When they were supposed to ram us with the guns,'' he said, ''they either swam away or put their snouts on our shoulders, very affectionately. They were the worst at taking orders.''
Williams adds that, given the years of training the Navy puts into them, these dolphins are invaluable. If you had to put dollar price on them, they’d be worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars—as compared to the $25,000 Russia was reportedly starting its bidding at. That’s yet another reason not to send them into active combat: It would be a waste to put such a valuable piece of “military hardware” on a mission where it would be exposed to lethal dangers. “These weren’t suicide mission animals, by any stretch of the imagination,” says Williams. “Never.”
(The fact that almost all U.S. military dolphins survive their experience introduces the strange question of how such a creature retires. After all, bottlenose dolphins can live 40-45 years in the wild. Budzyna says they generally remain under the military's purview, for use in research projects.)
At any rate, it’s impossible to know exactly what plans the Russians have for their new recruits. But if they're looking to train dolphins to kill, they probably won’t get terribly far. Here’s to hoping that these mammals’ docile nature will save them from the worst that warfare has to offer.