Monday, June 12th, 8:30PM
I arrived around 9:30 or so and the first tank had already been cleaned. Mattias did the first tank as early as possible since the treatment they were using this time required the person doing it to wear a full rubber suit. He tells me those suits can get kind of hot when youre in Hawaii, and I dont doubt it. Strangely enough, the acid treatment they did meant that only one person can even do the tank cleaning anyway, so all the people who told us to come in and help out obviously werent aware that the acid treatment was being done. It wasnt a total loss though. I did get to help feed the dolphins for the morning session.
Whenever they do tank cleaning, they drain the tanks to just below the level of the middle channel and, with the big wooden wall in place, they completely drain one tank for cleaning while the dolphins stay in the other half-full tank. They didnt seem to mind much being kept like that for a little while, although I could tell they were starting to get tired of one another (the girls and the kids are usually in different tanks when they have their choice). Apparently, they used to leave the gate in place at all times to keep Hiapo and Elele and Akeakamai and Phoenix in different tanks, so I guess they got used to that sort of a situation and they seem to prefer to be in those couples when they can be.
Since the dolphins were in relatively shallow water (due to tank cleaning), we obviously couldnt ask much of them during feeding, only small swims and spins. We couldnt even ask for tactiles because we couldnt reach them over the tank walls. Oh well. Mostly it was just a mass feeding session, where we just kept handing them fish for anything they did. Ellie was definitely the most energetic once again out of all of them. I guess I could be a little biased though, cause I was the one feeding her (lucky me!!). She did everything I asked of her, and even tried to interpret the times I moved my arms around to see her better (she was quite a ways down there). I only remembered a few things to ask her though, and I could tell she was getting bored of them, but she did keep doing them, a few times even adding in things to keep me interested (or so it seemed). Once I asked for her to turn on her belly, and once she did she put her head up so I could throw the fish in her upside-down mouth. A few other times she just decided to do something to earn a fish. Once, while I was thinking of something to ask of her, she did a water spit and started whistling. I pointed at her and said, "I hear you!", being as enthusiastic as I could. I love it when she does stuff like that. It doesnt seem like much when you read about it, but when she does it in front of you, you just get blown away. Shes actually offering YOU something. It is so neat.
I continued the session, doing whatever came to mind, like spiral swim, back swim, spin in place (which actually I know now I should have asked for a pirouette), blow bubbles, sing, pec wave, and stuff like that. I should have done a few more combinations, but I guess it doesnt matter. The other people didnt seem to be doing much with their dolphins anyway, or at least I was the only one I heard being particularly vocal in my re-enforcement. Maybe I was just blocking everything else out because I was having such a good time. Although I didnt see her do this today, Ellie likes to end her maneuvers in a grand fashion, with her body perfectly upright, completely silent, like shes bowing before the applause. When you react to her action with the silent claps and cheering (we cant actually make any noise when we clap, since it sounds too much like a "callback"), thats when she starts whistling and comes towards the tank wall for her reward. I havent seen any of the others do anything like that yet. They usually just come up whistling right away. I think if I get to work with Ellie again, Ill hold off my congratulation until I see her doing the "bow".
When they had brought the water level back up to halfway in the clean makai tank, it was time to let the dolphins into that tank. Mattias and I lifted the big wooden gate out of the slot and handed it off to Jane and Collin.
I didnt spend the whole day at the lab today. The rest of the participants had reserved all of us to go parasailing, but the 2:30 appointment we had for whatever reason was already full and we had to wait till 4:30. I walked around with Zelecia and Katie to the Ward Center mall where I bought a few presents for my family. Afterwards, I went swimming at the beach beside the lab, the first time I had done so since I had arrived (quite pathetic, I know). I was actually quite surprised to discover just how many lava rocks were scattered around in the sand of the beach. It made it rather painful on the feet to walk around, but the water was quite nice. Very salty, and it hurt your eyes a little, but you float very well and its very warm.
Apparently, theres someone "important" coming tomorrow to see the lab, so that could explain the reasoning behind using the special, expensive acid treatment for tank cleaning. Im hoping the next few days will include some demonstrations to show some of the things the dolphins can do but they normally dont incorporate into daily sessions due to research restrictions. Im hoping to see things like asking about the absence of an object in the tank, the creativity sign where the dolphins do whatever it is they want to, and the tandem sign where two dolphins do the same maneuver together (even with the creative maneuver). Any stuff like that would be very cool to see.
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