As I’ve mentioned in the past, I like checking in on various online news sources now and then because they frequently feature interesting stories and information that mainstream media outlets don’t share.
As is often the case when I go on a cyber-quest for outside-the-box knowledge, I recently came across a piece regarding something I found fascinating: A “super pod” of about a thousand Pacific white-sided dolphins caught on video on Oct. 31 swimming alongside a British Columbia ferry in the Strait of Georgia, a body of saltwater between Vancouver Island and mainland North America.
Prior to viewing the clip, I was aware that groups of dolphins are referred to as pods. I did a little research and found that experts indicate pods are typically made up of about a dozen or so individuals who hang out together for purposes including mating, hunting and protection. But I guess when circumstances are right – like there’s an abundance of food in a given area – numerous pods might temporarily join forces and form a “super” pod.
For reasons I’m not sure of, I wasn’t previously familiar with that concept. But let me tell you, now that I’ve been enlightened, I’m a big fan of the aquatic mammal super pod. It’s an absolutely awesome sight, kind of like a watery version of those giant wildebeest herds that move together in Africa like massive schools of fish.
I was so amazed with the spectacle, I Googled “dolphin super pod” to see if there were more online video examples, and sure enough, clips popped up showing even bigger pods in the waters off of South Africa, California and other coastal locales (some show groups estimated to be 100,000 strong; if you haven’t seen one, it’s worth checking out).
As is standard procedure for citizens of the west side of the Evergreen State, I rode many a ferry during my lengthy stint living in the Seattle area, traveling from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands, Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island, Edmonds to Whidbey Island, and making other jaunts across the deep blue of Puget Sound. While I more than once spotted the dorsal fins of killer whales or watched sea lions slipping in and out of a ferry’s wake, I was never lucky enough to see anything “super.”
I guess it’s all in the timing.
Anyway, I now realize that while large gatherings of dolphins are not common, they’re far from unprecedented. But something else I now know is that super pods have in the past been known to form on the Pacific Ocean side of Vancouver Island, but the appearance of one in the more-or-less inland Strait of Georgia is highly unusual and can’t help but create speculation about what a four-figure congregation of one of the world’s smartest animals was doing there.
As is my nature, I came up with a few possible explanations.
Maybe they were rushing to attend an audition session for Amphibious Idol to be hosted at Canada Place on Vancouver’s waterfront.
Maybe they had been told the Beluga King in Bellingham had a special on smelt wraps.
Maybe they were on their way to “Sturgeon,” the world’s biggest annual gathering of aquatic mammals and bikers.
Maybe they were excited about New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s reelection and were staging a rally in favor of him making a run at the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Maybe they were hurrying to the local aqua-mall to beat the holiday shopping rush.
Maybe they were on the run from some tuna fishing boats that were in the vicinity (you’re right, that one isn’t funny).
Maybe they were participating in a major monathlon, which unlike a triathlon, consists of only swimming and leaves out the cycling and running segments.
Maybe they had traveled all the way from the waters off of Florida to get away from the whole Richie Incognito deal.
Or maybe, just maybe, they were just a big bunch of dolphins being a big bunch of dolphins.
Since none of us speaks Dolphinian or Porpese, I suppose we’ll never really know. Although I suppose there’s a chance (albeit slight) that they were making their way to a clandestine location off of the northern coast of Vancouver Island to take part in a full disclosure session with world leaders and aliens involved in a centuries-old colonization project, in which case we’ll know soon for sure.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.