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Monday, June 19th, 8:30PM

I knew I’d be a little upset when I finally left, and I was. I had a hard time holding back tears (seriously) when I thanked Dr. Herman and Dr. Pack for everything they’d done for me during my stay. I suppose it was more joy I was feeling about just how much the whole trip had meant to me. I only wish I could have expressed it better to the people at the lab. That, in fact, is my greatest regret about my trip.

I got up with plenty of time to pack everything I needed. I was surprised, but my suitcase packed fairly well considering how full it was when I left and how much extra I was bringing back (well, a few shirts and such). I called a taxi to take me down to the lab since the bus will not allow any large bags, and Rima came along with me.

Rima kissing Akeakamai
Dolphins must be the most kissable animals on Earth... Am I wrong?
The morning was somewhat uneventful, if I remember correctly. It’s hard to remember now, after so much has happened. I guess fatigue is part of it as well. Anyway, first session I was assigned to take pictures for Rima’s last local, called her aloha local. She was lucky enough to get Akeakamai, in a good mood no less, so the session went well. I used Steve’s video camera to tape the entire session since Rima was staying for a few extra days to go around Honolulu with her mom and Steve was staying for another two weeks (he took the month long time block). This way, Steve could give Rima a copy of the session before she left for home. Rima sent Akeakamai on a few tandem behaviors with Phoenix, and had a number of great combinations that she tried out with her. All in all, the session was a good one.

Second session I was assigned to be session monitor. I spent most of the time walking around tank-side checking to make sure each fish bucket had ice in it and that the trainers didn’t need anything. I ran out of ice half way through the session, so I just sat back and watched the Cross-modal session for a while. Ellie did fairly well, but I’ve seen her more enthusiastic before. Like everyone else at the lab, I guess she too was getting tired of doing the trials. You could tell she’d have rather been doing something else, considering how slowly she was moving around. As it was though, this was an important session because Dr. Potter was recording echolocation clicks using his hydrophone for every session. That data would be the basis of a study he's running on how a dolphin’s echolocation works, such as frequency use, number and duration of clicks, and what the echo sounds like. He hopes with this information to design a better sonar system for boats that will increase range and not harm sea life.

I sat around all lunch hour and worked away at downloading pictures from my camera. Also, a previous participant had stopped by (he’d been a participant 3 times) with a beautiful Nikon Digital D-1 camera. I played around with my USB memory card reader thing and managed to figure out how to transfer images from the Nikon to one of the G4 Macintosh computers at the lab. I asked Jeff (the gentleman’s name) if he’d be willing to take a few photos of me on my Aloha local. He said he knew what it was like to have tons of great pictures and none of yourself, so he said he'd do it for me.

Third session, I had my Aloha local. I was really hoping to get Elele for my last local, but unfortunately, Hiapo was doing angular resolution that session and if I wanted to work with Ellie, I’d have to be beside research and keep high energy stuff out of the routine. All was not lost though.
Akeakamai and me enjoying each other's company
Akeakamai is a true performer when she wants to be. She's a blast to work with! Photo-Jeff (?)

(Click for 4.2MB Quicktime Movie)

I DID get to work with Akeakamai, and she’s definitely my second favorite dolphin after Ellie. I was fortunate enough to get Mike as my trainer as well. Mike was enthusiastic, supportive, and I don’t think I heard a negative comment from him once. He’s the long, curly-haired guy I spoke of earlier who was training Ellie when she spat water at Dr. Herman and Dr. Pack. During my session, Mike was constantly recommending things to do when I ran out of ideas, and he put the emphasis on doing whatever it was I wanted to do. I asked Jess (one of the interns) to film my session, and Steve offered to take some pictures with my digital camera as well. Jeff, the ex-participant I mentioned with the really nice camera, also took a number of photos of my session. Let’s just say the session was well documented. Funny too, because when I was up working with Ake, I didn’t once notice anyone looking at me or filming me at all. It’s like I was in another world, just me and my dolphin.

Mike assessed Ake’s mood as good right away. I can see why. She was very attentive and enthusiastic for all the initial behaviors I gave her. The first set of jumps I sent her on was really cool. I think it was a side jump I sent her on, and she ended up doing like 4 or 5 total, with the last one practically emptying the tank. Mike mentioned that Ake liked to do great finales, and this was a good example of that. She really is quite the showperson (yeah, she is DEFINITELY a person). When coming back to station after a particularly energetic behavior, she kind of pops her head up out of the water straight up first of all, then when you react, she bobs her head down towards the tank wall and starts whistling and clicking. It’s almost like a performer bowing for the crowd before the applause.

I’d say the neatest thing about Ake is just how much she loves to figure stuff out. I put one of the foam noodle things in the tank along with a boogie board, and told Ake to straight jump over the noodle, and straight jump over the boogie board. She only jumped over the noodle the first time, so I sent her to do it again. She didn’t even complain about sending her off right away, because I guess she knew she’d done it wrong. If I remember correctly, she saw me motion the hand signals the second time (all four of them) and I could almost see her say to herself, "Oh, I know what to do now!" She did a quick jump out of the water as she went over to the foam noodle, where she did 2 jumps over it, and immediately went over to the surfboard and jumped over that a couple times. She came back, and was whistling and clicking like crazy, and I gave her a whole bunch of fish. Mike was
Akeakamai jumps with tail up
Akeakamai never seems to be short of energy. Maybe that's why she eats so much! (click for larger picture)
impressed that she actually did what I asked her to do. I know Ake is probably the only one who would have gotten it on only the second request. The rest of the behaviors I did with her weren’t quite so complicated, simply because I couldn’t think of any more complex ones to do. One thing stayed consistent through the rest of the session though. She was always trying to put on a show. If I sent her on a spiral jump, she’d usually spit water and whistle as she did it, just for effect. Ake might not be as playful as Ellie, but she sure is a great dolphin to work with. I can see why so many people like her best, and I’m not disappointed that she was the last dolphin I got to work with.

For fourth session, I was assigned to time how long Elele or Hiapo were given to look at the object in the cross-modal box. A simple task, and nothing worth talking about, but what was interesting was Elele’s attitude towards the cross-modal work this session. Elia (Dr. Herman’s daughter) was training Elele, and good ‘ol Ellie was being quite responsive to initial commands. Dr. Pack was in the water at the opposite side of the tank using an underwater camera to film the dolphins as they did their echolocation on the cross-modal box. A number of times the two dolphins left station and went over to see what Dr. Pack was doing, and Dr. Pack would do a rostrum touch on the camera and send them back. They really seem to like him a lot. Even when he gave them a simple command to go back to station, they leapt out of the water and sped back over to the other side of the tank. Ellie was acting like a whining little kid, squawking and head jerking whenever she was asked to go to the cross-modal box. She was just in a bad mood and didn’t want to do research, which especially for Ellie was very strange to see. I suppose it's not too surprising though, considering how often she'd been doing the cross-modal research lately. Heck, I think everyone was getting a little tired of it, but this was the last day she'd have to do it for a while. I'm sure she was just getting tired of it. Too bad too, because I could have had my local with her at this point if research wasn’t running. All she wanted to do was play.

After Ellie made it clear a second time that she didn’t want to do the cross-modal trial, Dr. Pack swam over and played with her for a while. He went over with her to the box and re-enforced her whenever she touched it. It was like watching a parent show their child not to be afraid of something.
Akeakamai spitting water
Eventually, Dr. Pack took over the training session from Elia and managed to keep Ellie interested in doing the research trials again. You can totally tell that Ellie looks up to Dr. Pack like a father. I’m sure it has a little to do with his training style as well, but the bond is still there. After all, he’s been there since Elele and Hiapo were brought there 15 years ago. After the encouragement from Dr. Pack, you could tell Ellie was acting like she still didn’t want to do it, but she was doing it because Dr. Pack was asking her to. She actually did quite well too, getting every one right if I remember correctly.

Once the research was over, I started to feel a little depressed. I was actually leaving. I tried to think about all the good stuff I’d done while I was there, and it helped, but the inevitable truth that I was leaving was still lurking in my mind. I packed up my stuff and prepared to leave, all the while taking as much time as I could to watch the dolphins with some hope of one last session of play before I had to go. Phoenix came over once and gave me a quick little wave, but didn’t stick around for much else. Elele was surprisingly not interested in playing for once. She did come over one time and poked her rostrum through the guard, and I splashed her in the mouth a few times, but she wasn’t into it and left after 30 seconds or so. I guess Hiapo was running the show at that point, because while I was standing on one of the platforms beside the tank waiting for the taxi cab to show up, Hiapo kind of drifted over with Ellie and gave me a soft little head jerk. Oh well, I can understand that they need their space every once in a while. I only wish it wasn’t before I had to leave.

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