Posted by: Doc Bruce | July 20, 2011

Dolphin Daze at Sanibel Sea School

Last week, we studied Dolphins at Sanibel Sea School’s summer camp.

Did you know that a female dolphin born under the Sanibel causeway my live for 25 years and never venture more than 15 or 20 miles from the causeway? Pretty amazing, but female Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins have perfected the art of blooming where they are planted – wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that well?

During our week of camp, we studied how dolphins use biosonar – echolocation to ‘see’ the world around them. Dolphins produce sound waves with the assistance of the melon, a fatty organ located in their forehead that is believed to help them focus the sound waves used for echolocation. The shape of the large rounded forehead of dolphins comes from the underlying melon gland. To demonstrate to ourselves how echolocation works, we had a rousing game of “echo location”, Sanibel Sea School’s rendition of Marco Polo, only where the one who is it wears a blacked-out snorkeling mask and thus cannot peek.

We also learned that dolphins have a voice apart from their echolocation. They use their voice to produce a variety of clicks and whistles through which they communicate to one another. Each dolphin has a signature voice used to distinguish individuals in their social groups – these social groups are called pods. Back in camp, we made drums from cast off large food cans and saw how each of us can create a signature ‘voice’ distinguishable from the others in the pod.

Sarah Carr leads a team on an underwater scavenger hunt.

With drums at hand, we held a drumming circle and talked about the difference between noise and music, but it was unclear whether we succeeded at the latter rather than the former.

We spent time learning to throw a cast net and gained a better appreciation for the challenges a dolphin faces to capture their daily ration of nearly 25 pounds of fish. We played cooperative hunting, frolicked in the warm Gulf waters and pretended we were dolphins while learning to surf – dolphins are perhaps the world’s best surfers.

Two campers cooperatively hunt down a counselor in a game of capture the fish.

Sanibel Marina donated fun-filled cruises on the Stars and Stripes for all our campers, where we were treated to the spectacular sights of dolphins surfing in the wake. It was a great way to have a close encounter of the dolphin kind.

We are grateful to the many people who help create life-long ocean experiences and memories at Sanibel Sea School. Bailey’s quenches our thirst with an unending supply of ice, the Island Cow provides hamburgers and hotdogs for our Friday cookouts. The Baitbox donates nets, expertise and island skills to our programs. The Community House hosts our milk and cookies on Friday where we share our week of fun with our parents and grandparents.

Sanibel Sea School is a Sanibel-based non-profit foundation; we envision a world where all people value, understand and care for the Ocean.

Please join us in that vision to the future at http://www.sanibelseaschool.org.

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