You never know what you might encounter when you're out in the ocean. All of us on board were all packing up our gear after an excellent afternoon of filming and photographing Great Hammerheads off the coast of Bimini. The dive boat was a jumble of fins and masks, regs and empty tanks, dunk buckets and soggy neoprene. The captain had hinted that we might, just might see some dolphins on our way back to the dock. Sure enough, we crossed paths with a small pod.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins are not usually as social as other dolphin species, like the bottlenose, but any chance to swim with dolphins is a good time. The captain quickly stopped the boat and encouraged us to slip into the water with as little splashing as possible, so as to not spook the dolphins. I slid into the warm, turquoise water to get a few shots.
Unexpectedly, the moment I dipped beneath the surface my sense of hearing took over above my sense of sight. As a photographer, the connection I have to the visual world is strong, usually stronger than my other senses. And most of the time when you dive beneath the surface all you can hear is the muffled sound of surface noises filtering through the water and waves crashing together. But this time my ears were flooded with a series of clicks, whistles, and squeaks coming directly from the dolphins. They were using their echolocation, also called sonar, to communicate with each other and possibly to us in the water as well. If only there was a way to become fluent in dolphin!
As we swam toward them and floated close by, the dolphins began to swim all around us for the next five minutes or so giving us amazing photo ops and a memorable encounter. They dove to the sandy bottom, spun, turned, surfacing to exhale and inhale through their blowholes, gliding effortlessly through the water, just a few feet away from me. When the dolphins decided it was time to move on, they clicked and squeaked and whistled to each other some form of, “Okay, let’s go!” and with a few flicks of their tails they were gone, nearly as quickly as they had shown up. You never know what you might encounter when you're out in the ocean.