TDI 2001Home1245689101112131415fin

Sunday, May 20th, 2001

Akeakamai looks up at her trainer in the tower (click for bigger picture)
I went in early today so I could catch the interns doing their free session with the dolphins.I've known since last year that the weekends are the best time to see sessions because they limit the number of sessions to two for the entire day. This means double the fish for the session, fewer people, and usually less-structure than you might see on a weekday. The dolphins seem to enjoy themselves, same as anyone would on their day off.

I arrived midway through the morning session. I immediately took out my camera and attempted to document the action as best I could. It was hard to know who to follow, because all three dolphins seemed to be very energetic and enthusiastic, although Hiapo was still a little stubborn as he always is. I snapped a couple of good shots but mostly I took some video to show how the interns play with the dolphins. They are so good at reading the dolphin's mood and finding unique and interesting things to do with them. I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to do a session like they do.

After session was over, I noticed that Hiapo was carrying around a white, squishy ball that was accidentially left in the tank from last session. I told Mike about it, but he wasn't too concerned and figured it'd get tossed out of the tank eventually. I followed Hiapo around and watched what he was doing to see if maybe he'd toss the ball to me. Nope. As soon as the ball drifted over to the side of the tank and I got anywhere near it, he'd come over and toss it back into the middle of the tank, or take off underwater with it in his mouth. He would kind of toy with the idea of tossing it on the side of the tank, but would take off shortly after that. Alanna came by and saw the ball, and went up to the tank and started talking to Hiapo.
Hiapo with ball
Hiapo plays around with a ball left in the tank after session (click for bigger picture)
She's around the lab a lot and Hiapo knows her well, so he stayed with her for a little while.The ball was about 10 feet down the tank from them and I was right next to it. I asked Alanna if I should grab it, and she said it'd probably be best, so I stepped up and started taking it slowly, but the minute Hiapo knew what was going on, he rushed over to me and narrowly missed grabbing the ball out of my hands. He then started whistling and clicking, like he wanted me to throw it to him. I really wanted to just give it back to him, but Alanna said he definitely wouldn't give it back if I did. He was sitting there, so innocently. I felt so bad, like I had just taken away a child's toy, but it's for his own good. Those balls aren't very strong and might end up breaking under the pressure of being kept underwater and squeezed like he was doing with it.

"I'm sorry H man. I'd really like to give it to you, but I can't. I'm sorry.. ", is all I could say to him. I hope he doesn't think any less of me because of what happened there.

I spent part of the afternoon playing around with pictures and this website to pass the time. If it seems like I spend a lot of time doing these journals, well, you're not mistaken. I usually take about 2 hours a day to do a journal, and about another hour to put pictures on the page. It's not a small job!

Ake dolphin leap
Here's one of the better action shots I took today (click for bigger picture)
After lunch, I decided to head over to Snapshot, a camera store I found out about that will print digital pictures. Craig, one of the spring interns, had asked me to print some of the pictures I took. This particular store has a machine that exposes real photo paper with the digital image and then develops the pictures like regular film pictures are developed, so the quality is far beond any laser printer or dye sublimation printer. I took the bus to CompUSA and walked up a couple blocks to the camera store. After transfering the pictures to their computer, I hopped the bus back to the lab to catch the afternoon session.

The afternoon session was absolutely amazing. I talked with the trainers before the session and asked if they could maybe let me know when they were planning to send their dolphin on a straight jump or some kind of arial maneuver so I could attempt to get a picture. As I've said before, I'm still looking for a really good dolphin jump picture. I took a bunch of good ones today. The entire session was entertaining to watch just from the dolphin's attitude towards the open style of the trainers.Along with the great pictures I managed to get, I also took some great video of the session that I'm sure I'll be watching for a long time to come. Julia, Ashleigh, Sophie, Emmanuelle, Geoff, and Leonard all stopped by half way through the session to see how things were going. I had mentioned to them that weekends were a good day to come in to see good sessions. Julia had rented a car for the weekend and most of them had come in that... a convertable Ford Mustang... quite nice. They all enjoyed the session about as much as I did.

After the session was over,Julia was nice enough to give me a ride over to Snapshot, and I picked up the finshed pictures for Craig. There were six 4x6 prints, and they cost $2 a piece. While the quality was good, I don't know if they were worth the money or time they involved. There was a little bit of colour banding, but nothing too noticable and Craig really seemed to like them.

Everyone else ended up leaving shortly after we got back with the pictures so Julia could take the car back to Waikiki. I stuck around with Leonard and played some Unreal Tournament to kill some time. Hey, it beats sitting around watching TV! The interesting part of the night wasn't our game, though. On my way down to use the washroom, I saw some familiar eyes following me around the tank... It was Ake and Phoenix, and they were in quite a playfull mood. Ake was whistling like she always does when she wants attention, so I took a look into the tank close to the stairway that goes up to the tower to see what she was up to. When she saw me, she made her way over to the side of the tank and gave those same short whistles as she turned on her side and looked at me. Then, she slapped her tail on the water and went under the water to the window hidden beneath the tower.

Ake twisting jump
Akeakamai is practically famous for her twisting jumps... Her tail comes down and WHACK! (click for bigger picture)
"What are you doing?", I asked her. She popped back up and whistled again, slapped her tail, and went down to the window again. Then Phoenix came and slapped her tail too and went down to the window. I got the drift. I went under the tower and crouched into the little cubby hole that the window was connected to. Sure enough, Ake and Phoenix were there waiting for me. Now, what do I do with them now that they're here? I tried to think of why they would ask me to go down there. At first, I remembered that last year, sometimes Ake would slap her tail on the water close to the water taps if she wanted the water turned on. Now, Mattias has installed an airpressure button that the dolphins can push to turn the water on if they want it. Since I hadn't heard of either Ake or Pho pressing that button, I figured maybe they didn't know how and they wanted me to turn it on. I bypassed the switch and turned the water on, but they didn't seem to care much when I did that.

"No, you don't want that? What do you want then?", I asked them as they stared at me through the window, ever patient for entertainment. I turned the water off, and they didn't react significantly, so I looked around to see if there was anything mildly interesting to play a game with. All that was down there was a bunch of flat, wooden spacers they use for the angular resolution apparatus. Ok, I can work with that. I started playing the gravity game with them, where I'd put one at the top of the window and drop it down until it hit the bottom of the window. Every time, they'd follow the spacer exactly, jerking their heads in a downward motion. Some might think this to be a sign of aggression or irritation, but in this case, they're just following the object. I know this from experience and from what others have told me at the lab. Who knows why the dolphins continue to be facinated by something so simple, even after seeing it for so long and so many times.

Ake jump tail up
Who knows what Ake is doing here, but it looks cool! (click for bigger picture)
Ake got bored after a minute or so and left, but Phoenix still seemed interested. I started building up the sticks into a structure against the window, then knocking it down from the bottom. She whistled a few times while I did that (well, I saw bubbles anyway). I'd throw the spacers in the air, twirl them around, and she seemed to follow every move. I grabbed some hand clamps and started making jawing actions with them towards the window, moving them around her and she followed them a few times. I put the clamps on the ends of one of the spacers and spun them around, and started building stuff out of the clamps and spacers, all the while having Pho seem to stay interested. I think we played like that for a good 10 minutes. Maybe it just seemed that long. Eventually, I could see Phoenix was getting bored, so I put the spacers away and stepped outside again to find something else to do with her. She popped up to the side of the tank and whistled at me while lying on her side, and she rolled over and lifted her fin to wave at me; a very defined, positive action to roll over and lift her fin while looking at me. It was SO cute... =)

This wasn't the only time that night I had an opportunity to play with the dolphins either. Later on, I was going down to get something to eat from the candy fund in the diamondhead office (a shelf with chips and stuff for 50 cents). I was just walking past the front windows of the tank and I heard a very loud, playfull whistle I didn't recognise. I turned around, and there was Hiapo, whistling and clicking away, slapping his tail on the water and being about as noisy as he could be to get someone's attention.

"What are you doing, silly?", I asked him.

"I think he wants to play," said Brian, who was sitting at the table in the front lanai at the time.

Side jump over object
The dolphins know to jump over an object that is pointed out to them (click for bigger picture)
"Yeah, I guess so!", I said, completely surprised to have seen Hiapo do what I just saw. Usually Hiapo keeps to himself, mostly ignoring anyone who comes by the tanks, but he was definitely looking for someone to play with right now! I stepped up to the tank, and he popped his head out of the water and started whistling and clicking away. Then, he made a very obvious motion to me. He sat there, looking at me, and would open his mouth at me in a very defined, very clear motion. It was like no other time I had seen the dolpins open their mouths. This seemed to be directed for me to know that he was opening his mouth, rather than opening it to accept a fish. I knew what he wanted. There's only a few things he could have possibly been asking for: either fish, or a ball. Considering I had to take a ball from the tank today, I think that's what he was asking me for. I wish I could have given him the ball, but obviously that was out of the question. Instead, I played window games with him with some rocks that were sitting there by the windows. He stuck around for a little while doing that, and I could tell he was in a playfull mood, but after building little piles of rocks against the window and knocking them down again, I could tell he was getting bored and he left. It was still neat to have him come over like that. Maybe he didn't hold a grudge about me taking the ball away earlier. =)

Julia in her mustang
Julia shows off her "mean machine" she had rented for the weekend (click for bigger picture)
I took some footage once it got dark of the dolphins using the infrared mode of my video camera. I've always wondered what a dolphin's eyes look like at night, and to be honest, they don't look that much different. Their whole eye glows even in the bright sunlight, and that doesn't change at night. I'm hoping to ask about that when we have the sensory lecture.

I'm glad I went to the lab today. Hopefully this next week will be a good one!

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