"Of all land animals, some avoid man, and some of those who approach him, like the dog, the horse or the elephant, are loving to him because he feeds them. But on the dolphin, alone among all others, nature has bestowed this gift which the greatest philosophers long for: disinterested friendship. It has no need of any man, yet is the friend of all men, and has often given them great aid."
".....The citizens of Hippo (a Roman colony near Bizerta, in Tunisia) have a great fondness for fishing, sailing, and swimming, especially the children.....During a swim towards the open sea....one of them....goes far away from the shore. Suddenly a dolphin approaches, swims in front, raises him to its back then shakes him off. Then it dives again and to the boy's horror, takes him away out to sea. But soon it makes a half turn and carries him back to his companions on the shore....The story went around and next day when the children were swimming....the dolphin appeared again, came up to the boy but he fled with the rest. Then, as if to call out to them, the dolphin leapt high above the water, then dived back only to burst forth again from the waves, frisking about and twisting its body into an S. It played the same game the next day, and the following days until the young men of Hippo, who had been born and raised by the sea, became ashamed of their fears. They approached the creature, called to it and played with it. They stroked the dolphin, who encouraged them.....The child who had established first contact swam by its side, climbed on its back, and made it pull him through the water. When he felt that the dolphin loved him, he loved it in return, and there was no more fear on eithr side; the child's confidence grew as he became accustomed to the animal....the remarkable thing is that another dolphin also accompanied them, but only as a spectator. He neither joined in their games nor accepted any familiarities; he was content to escort his mate as the boys escorted their friend...."
Pliney (the younger A.D. 109)
"This happened, not in times gone by, but in our generation. A child and a dolphin, living in the port of Porosolene, had grown up together, bound ever more strongly each year in brotherly love. When they reached the flower of their youth, the boy won first place among all the young men on land, and the dolphin surpassed all the fish in the sea....The young man used to launch his boat and row to the middle of the bay. He would call the animal by the name he had given him in earliest childhood. The dolphin, hearing the name, would ride the waves, swimming toward the familiar boat, his tail waving, his hed proudly erect, filled with joy at seeing his friend, who would stroke him tenderly as he greeted him. It seemed as if the dolphin wanted to jump into the boat to be closer to the young man. But when the boy dived into the brine the dolphin swam next to him, side by side, and cheek by cheek, and their heads touched....The boy often passed his hand over his friend's neck and climbed upon his damp back, and with happy understanding, the dolphin took the boy on his back and went wherever the child's whim directed him.....And he not only carried his friend but also whomsoever the child brought to him, and obeyed them....for the love of him."
Oppian 'Halieutica' (about A.D. 200)
"What has ever caught the imagination more than the dolphin? When man traverses the vast domains his genius has conquered, he finds the dolphin on all the seas’ surface…Man sees him everywhere – light in his movements, rapid in his swimming, astonishing in his jumps, delighting in charming away by his quick and foolish movements, the boredom of prolonged calms, animating the ocean’s immense solitude, disappearing like lighting, escaping into the air like a bird, reappearing, fleeing, showing himself again, playing with the wild waves and braving the tempests. The dolphin does not fear the elements, nor distance, nor the sea’s tyrants."
Count de Buffon
"If the role which dolphins played in mythology served to lead the ancients astray, it also served to help them in the observations they made of these animals; in this respect they had a factual advantage over us. Dolphins for modern seamen, are nothing but animals covered with thick layers of blubber, and sought after for commerce. For the Greeks, they were, in certain cases, almost sacred beings, and sometimes messengers of the gods: Apollo took the form of a dolphin. As soon as our fisherman see one , they hurry to harpoon him and put him to death. When dolphins were met by the sailors of old, they were respected as harbingers of good fortune, and it was almost a sacrilege to kill them . The result of this difference in the concept of dolphins is that in ancient times, several of these animals may have become familiar with certain coasts, lingered in certain bays, even penetrated into ports, where they were received with hospitality and where, perhaps, they would take up their abode. It is the least that one can conclude from these recitals if one subtracts from them what is too obviously the stuff of fables. One can even go as far as believing that these animals are capable of contracting a degree of familiarity with the men they see habitually, and that they may become attached to them, recognize their voice, and obey them."
"This is life served up as grandly as it ever is, huge and pulsing. It makes you shed your hard and rational edges, conjure all the childishness, the insanity, the foolishness, and the mysticism you have hidden away inside you. The spirit of godly gamesomeness Melville called it, and you have it bad. And you realize, in the midst of that moment, the silent horror of a world empty of whales.
So Remorseless a Havoc
"What need of wings with such an arc of flight, leaping from wave to wave. To man’s despair inheritors of grace and pure delight. You sew your seam that binds the sea and air, cruising in happy schools the full stream flood, guest of the seasons, masters of your world, where all lies open to your frolic mood, as through the azure depths your bodies hurl.
If only sea-bound man had seen it through, nor at creation struggled up the beach, to fight forever for the joys that you, Dolphin, find so naturally in reach. Good pagan comrade, your inherent grace and carefree ways confound the human race.
"Dolphins been ridin’ the Bow up ahead of those human boats for a long, long time."
"I observed a school of dolphins…and something told me that here was a creature all gaiety, charm and intelligence, that might one day come out of the boundless deep and show us how a world can be run by creatures dedicated not to the destruction of their species, but to its preservation."
"I have watched whales and dolphins for hours on end and I have watched people watching whales and dolphins, and always this same thing happens; the animals draw the watcher in. Finally the watcher looks at the cetacean and it looks back and something passes between them. And in this curious, unnamed intercourse you begin to wonder. Is there a knowing intelligence behind that glistening eye?
So Remorseless a Havoc
Of Dolphins, Whales and Men
"More whales have been destroyed in our time than in any other, and they have all died stupidly, to serve purposes better met by vegetable oils, jojoba, and beef cattle. ‘In the world of mammals,’ writes Teizp Ozawa, ‘there are two mountain peaks. One is Mount Homo Sapiens, and the other Mount Cetacea.’ How odd that the one pinnacle has chosen to lay the other waste so senselessly."
So Remorseless a Havoc
Of Dolphins, Whales and Men
"According to the latest and best estimate, tuna fishing in the years 1959 through 1965 killed 2,600,000 dolphins."
So Remorseless a Havoc
Of Dolphins, Whales and Men
"Dolphins are the good in us; they know not the bad. They befriend us willingly from the goodness of their natures, but we are sometimes so perverse that we betray and kill them. The hunting of dolphins is immoral, and that man can no more draw nigh the gods as a welcome sacrifice nor touch their altars with clean hands but pollutes those who share the same roof with him, whoso willingly devises destruction for dolphins."
Oppia (ancient Greek)
"…It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even modern ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them for their functions is gone through. There is a saltcellar of state, so called, and there may be a caster of state. How they use the salt, precisely—who knows? Certain I am, however, that a king’s head is solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior run well, as they anoint machinery? Much might be ruminated here, concerning the essential dignity of this regal process, because in common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably smell of that anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he can’t amount to much in his totality.
But the only thing to be considered here, is this—what kind of oil is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear’s oil, nor train oil*, no cod-liver oil. What then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted state, the sweetest of all the oils?
Think of that, ye loyal Britons! We whale men supply your kinds and queens with coronation stuff!"
"That whale….was duly brought to the (ship)’s side, where all those cutting and hoisting operations previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to the baling of the …Case*
While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm; and when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully manipulated ere going to the try-works, of which anon.
It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with several others, I sat down before a large Constantine’s bath of it, I found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a clearer! Such a sweetener! Such a softener! Such a delicious mollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize.
As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour ; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma,---literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm. I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsian superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulance, or malice, of any sort whatsoever…"
*Editor: bailing the case=buckets lowered into the Whale’s head to bail out the spermaceti oil.)
"The whales, which have grown increasingly benign and playful over the years, are said to look into the eyes of these water-borne tourists as if imparting some ancient, transcendental wisdom. If all goes according to plan, a person leaves the lagoon changed, wise in the ways of whales, the cosmos, and if he or she is lucky, whale sex (it's not uncommon for an aroused male to turn on its back and display what is euphemistically referred to as Pink Floyd)."
The Eye of the Whale
"And so, dolphin, my friend, my cousin, who are you?"
The Dolphin, Cousin to Man
Book: "Dolphin Societies: Discoveries and Puzzles" Ed. by K. Pryor & K.S. Norris
Book: " Soul in the Water" by C. Scott Taylor
Book: "The Dolphin, Cousin to Man" by Robert Stenuit
Book: "Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest " by Montgomery
Book: "To Touch a Wild Dolphin" by Rachel Smolker
Back to Chrestomathy Next Page