Sunday, June 18th, 11:30PM
When I arrived to help with tank cleaning at around 8AM or so, the makai (south) tank had already been drained, and chlorine had already been sprayed on the walls. I helped out with (very) thoroughly hosing the walls down and then we started filling up the tank. I was expecting a few of the other participants (Steve, Jon, and Stephanie) to come in and help with the cleaning, but as it turned out the chlorine process meant that we couldnt get in and help scrub anyway. I gave Josh (another intern) a hand getting the fish ready for the morning session after we finished with the rinsing (morning sessions 1 and 2 are done all at once on weekends, making one big session). It actually took an awful lot longer to do the fish sorting than I thought when theres only two of you and youre working from a block of frozen fish thawing in the sink. I spent a good 20 minutes separating and sorting the kaplin fish from the frozen block. Quite to my surprise, Josh and I found out that technically speaking we werent supposed to be doing the fish duty without supervision, but we felt comfortable doing it by ourselves. Its fairly basic stuff, and its hard to mess it up as long as youre careful like we were. In any case, Allison and Lea were constantly checking in with us while they did other stuff, so if anything had come up, we could have asked them.
After fish duty, we were informed that we were short of people for the feeding session, so Josh and I would have to fill in as the trainers. Oh darn, Im so upset. Oh, and since theres only two of us, wed also have to take two dolphins each. Oh, thats just horrible. I mean, why would I ever want to be trainer to two dolphins, with double the number of normal fish, with full control of the session? WHOOO HOOO!
Josh is an intern whod been here for about a month already, so he wasnt new to training without another trainer. As for myself, I had never trained by myself before. All I had ever done were locals, where the trainer came up, assessed the dolphins mood, did some initial behaviors, and had me come up to take over. I know for a fact that participants normally DO NOT get to do what I was about to do. I was really lucky. Lea and Allison were right behind us while we did the session, so we were always supervised, but I actually initiated and ended the session by myself. I felt totally confident that I could do it. I think Ive observed every single session since Ive been here, and I doubt anyone could be more ready than I was for my first time alone. I guess Lea and Allison thought so too.
One thing I have to remember for tomorrows session (my last local, called my Aloha) is not to be so quick to move towards the fish bucket. The dolphin is very unwilling to do another behavior if youre constantly leaning towards the fish bucket when you dont feed them. Im hoping I can spend more time congratulating them on a good behavior with silent clapping and cheers and so forth before I actually reach for the bucket. Im going to try not reacting at all until they pop their head up and are completely at station, and THEN Ill go nuts. They seem to like it when people do that.
All in all, I think todays session went fairly well and I enjoyed it a lot. I feel very fortunate that Allison and Lea had confidence in my abilities to let me do the session that way. Josh had mentioned to me that I was probably the most "gung-ho" person at the lab. Lea seemed to agree
I guess my efforts hadnt gone unnoticed after all! I was flattered... =) Josh said I was the only person in the last two weeks whod been there every day to help with everything. That included today, when I wasnt scheduled to do anything but came in anyway, as well as yesterday when I managed to find the problem with Dr. Potters data-acquisition module. To tell the truth, I cant think of anything Id rather be doing than helping out at the lab. That might seem strange, being that Im in Honolulu and all, but I just love being part of this whole facility and I cant think of anything Id prefer to spend my time doing.
Later in the afternoon, I decided to head over to a facility called Sea Life Park, over on the Eastern side of the island in Waimanalo. I had heard about it from a few of the staff at the lab, one of whom actually worked there part time. They described it as sort of a miniature Sea World, with a much different atmosphere from the Dolphin Institute. I decided I'd be disappointed if I didn't at least check it out, so I caught a bus over at Ala Moana Center and grabbed the bus that headed to Sea Life Park. The bus ride was worth it all by itself. It takes a very scenic route through the Hawaiian hills and past a number of small towns by the ocean, although after the hour and a half long trip I was ready to get off.
When I arrived, I walked up to the admission counter and bought a ticket. The lady in the booth was surprised I even wanted to go in, since after 3:00, all the feeding sessions were finished and nothing much happens. I knew that if I didn't go in now, I would never come back, and I told the lady that. She was nice enough to give me a discounted admission from the rather steep $12 you would normally pay since I was going in so late. As soon as I stepped in, I knew I was in for a commercial experience.
One of the dolphin tanks, called Dolphin cove, was particularly impressive compared to tanks I've seen at other facilities.
The other dolphin tank, the Hawaii Ocean Theater, is what I'd classify as a typical Sea World-style tank. It appeared about as large as one of the two tanks at the Dolphin Institute, but it was a bit deeper and had glass going all around it. It had seats going all the way around it like you would see at a theater, and there were smaller tanks at the back of the main tank with a number of other dolphins in them. I counted four dolphins in the main tank, and a few more in the back tanks.
Probably the most interesting thing I saw during my visit was the worlds only whalphin. Yeah, that's what they call her, although I can't remember her actual name. She was born to both bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale parents, her mother a dolphin and her father a false killer whale. She is very interesting looking, a perfect mix between the two species, and to top it all off, she's had a calf of her own before! It's the only time that an animal has ever been conceived between species and remained fertile, or so I heard. She is just a little bigger than a bottlenose dolphin, and has very dark grey colouring with a slightly shorter and wider rostrum. She was very energetic during the "Dolphin Adventures", doing a number of jumps quite high in the air and just being plain enthusiastic towards anything she was asked.
Well, tomorrows my last day. I cant believe how fast the times gone by. Its going to be hard to leave, but I think Ive made the absolute most of my time here. I dont think I could have possibly spent any more time at the lab than I did, and I have a great collection of experiences Im coming home with. Hopefully tomorrow can live up to the rest of my trip, so I can end my experience with even more memories.
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