Encounters with Otherworldly Dolphins

Feb 11, 2021 | General Information

Award-winning journalist and editor, Susan Casey, is a lover of oceans and marine life. She is the author of three bestsellers including one about America’s great white sharks. Most recently she published Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.Like all of her work, it combines immersive reporting, scientific research and master storytelling. Her research into the world beneath the waves always is grounded in personal experience and investigations.

Voices in the Oceanwas inspired by a profound experience swimming with wild spinner dolphins off the coast of Maui. Casey’s first encounter with spinner dolphins in and outside of Honolua Bay was both eerie and magical. Moving with unearthly grace, the dolphins seemed to enfold her in their pod, perhaps even engage her in their conversation. Utterly fascinated, she swam with the spinners into deeper and deeper waters.

The dolphins seemed to exist in an otherworldly realm. But there’s more to Casey’s encounter with dolphins. At the time, she was dealing with personal grief from the loss of her father. The dolphins somehow managed to restore some of her happiness …or at least take some of the edge off her deep sadness. As Casey learned later, scientists suspect that dolphins may be able to discern another creature’s emotional state.

Casey’s remarkable book covers the history and findings of a vast amount of dolphin research. Many marine scientists and dolphin advocates have made it their life’s work to increase our understanding and appreciation of dolphins. For example, scientists have discovered that dolphins can see with their hearing. They do this by deploying biological sonar that enables them to literally see through objects. Dolphins also have amazing healing abilities, enabling them to recover from even the deepest wounds.

Casey traces the astonishing evolution of dolphins from land mammals to aquanauts over about twenty million years. Their limbs turned into fins streamlined for swimming… fur turned into blubber …nostrils migrated to the top of their heads…and they developed perfectly hydrodynamic bodies. The bodies of dolphins have evolved over eons for speed, navigation capabilities, plunging rapidly into depths, and keeping warm even in freezing waters. The big brains of dolphins contain even more neurons than human brains. This fact confirmed Casey’s suspicions about the possible affinities of dolphins and Homo Sapiens.

Casey ponders questions posed by marine biologist Rachel Smokler: “Do [dolphins] have the same powers of reasoning that we have? . . . Do they feel love and hate, compassion, trust, distrust? Do they wonder about death? Do they have ideas about right and wrong and accompanying feelings of guilt and righteousness? What could they teach us about the oceans? How do they feel about one another? What do they think about us?” Casey’s quest for answers leads to fascinating examples through the ages of the unique bond between humans and dolphins.

For visitors who join dolphin tours off the coasts of Kauai, Maui, Lanai or any Hawaiian island, thanks to Casey’s book the experience will be even more mystifying and uplifting, beguiling and wonderful. After reading Voices in the Ocean, you’re likely to join its author – and scientists, dolphin advocates and Tom Barefoot’s Tours — in viewing dolphins in a completely different way. I urge you to read Voices in the Ocean and you’ll never see a pod of spinner dolphins again in the same way.