How much more the sea is than a pile of waves. Steep folding collars of vaporised violence storm sideways from rising, horizon-blocking, water mountains. But air can also be a finer brush. For days, an offshore wind leaned on a massive swell. The crests were blown back and everywhere white-water gulls winged upon a sun-shed deep green-blue fond against the menacing dark skies. Closer by the sun cast rainbows into the surf. But later, against the light, the crests became transparent and silvered away. And when the winds laid, the swell heaved and hugged the rocks with mammoth affection.
The ingenious insight Dusty has in her element becomes ever clearer to me. The autumn tempests have begun and you must have a death wish to throw yourself into this white inferno. Her timing to give birth now is perfect. The ocean polices her sanctuary as these growling sentinels unforgivingly lock the water from the rocks. The past summer the water was more accessible, but even a gentle breeze throws masses of trapped water up against the wicked rockery of Fanore. What a hostile contradiction to the friendly sloping sandy beach of White Strand.
Quite a few bravados had to lick their wounds after a reckless swim. It is not so hard to enter even a high sea, since you go from a hard into a soft place. But when you want out, you've got to land upon hard, often thorny rock. Also, the water gets an uneasy edge. You're thrown forward and next sucked back again by the backwash across a sudden shallow full of rolling and sliding stones with no foothold on the slippery weed growth. If you think to be smart and seek handhold and shelter at the larger rock chunks, you'll find that the rapid circumflow has carved out treacherous depths and sweeps you off your feet. And exits that yesterday were in the lee, today with a change of wind can be lethal.
And then there is Dusty herself. This summer, with practically no exception, she has forced everyone she doesn't know out of the water. Lucienne told me afterwards that never in her life had she been so scared when she got a firm prod of Dusty's snout in her back and Henneke said that a poke against her shin still hurt two months later. A few people even got rammed on the chest bone or lashed with her fluke. All this is not so surprising. Dusty has claimed her territory and guards this to give birth to her calf in safety and to protect it. Her otherwise mostly half-shut eyes are now wide open.
Her behaviour towards the handful of people she's known for years is therefore all the more surprising. Towards us she is sweeter than ever. For Kate, Jane and Ute she goes belly-up straightaway and allows herself to be stroked, scratched and groomed. She let herself push away from Lucienne by Trevor and was very interested in Silke ringing her magic bells. She posed patiently for George's camera and let me dive through under her in our underwater ballet.
Behind the reef, she circles her rest rounds and further she seems to inspect her delivery area. Under the surface there are gigantic rock formations with a maze of corridors running in between. I binocularised her tapping her fluke on the water before she made a deep, sideway dive. I think she combines this source of sound with her sonar emissions to meticulously investigate the area. The tilted position enables her to sweep the topography of the seabed. Dusty never acts unaware and now everything applies to her forthcoming motherhood.
Even the regular swimmers avoid this area, not from fear, but out of respect. We don't chase her, not even for stroking. We leave the initiative for an encounter to her.
For boats she hardly shows interest. Even the fishing boats that she accompanied last winter, merrily splashing in the bow wave, seem to have lost their attraction.
To all questions about how things are going to be there is only one answer: time will tell. A wild, interactive dolphin is going to have a baby. That won't be easy for her, particularly in the beginning. She lacks the experience that other dolphins get in their pods and in many respects she'll have to reinvent the wheel. Ours is to exercise restraint. However well-meant, our 'help' will only hinder her. And anyway, Dusty has superfluously shown in the past that she knows her options far better than we do. Actually, we are her only threat. So leave her in peace, her gift can open a world for us.
videos: http://gallery.me.com/dolphin_address/100105 and 100108 (poor viz).
PS Vigorous visitors have discovered another family of 110 photos on http://gallery.me.com/dolphin_address/100095, Burgemeeuwsters (Glaucous gulls).