Flanking us fifty feet away in an aquatic escort

An Atlantic spotted dolphin, An Atlantic spotted dolphin mother and calf, Bimini, Bahamas, 2007

The free-living dolphins of the Bahamas had come to know researcher Denise Herzing and her team very well. For decades, at the start of each four-month-long field season, the dolphins would give the returning humans a joyous reception: “a reunion of friends,” as Herzing described it. But one year the creatures behaved differently. They would not approach the research vessel, refusing even invitations to bow-ride. When the boat’s captain slipped into the water to size up the situation, the dolphins remained aloof. Meanwhile on board it was discovered that an expeditioner had died while napping in his bunk. As the vessel headed to port, Herzing said, “the dolphins came to the side of our boat, not riding the bow as usual but instead flanking us fifty feet away in an aquatic escort” that paralleled the boat in an organized manner.

The remarkable incident raises questions that lie at the heart of Carl Safina’s astonishing new book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. Can dolphin sonar penetrate the steel hull of a boat—and pinpoint a stilled heart? Can dolphins empathize with human bereavement? Is dolphin society organized enough to permit the formation of a funeral cavalcade? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Beyond Words has profound implications for humans and our worldview.

~ Tim Flannery, The Amazing Inner Lives of Animals



  1. How fantastic that dolphins have such compassion and prescience. How sad that their emotional capacity can eclipse our own.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Even more reason to be in awe of these beautiful creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Or perhaps they sense “I don’t want any of that”…
    I doubt we will get into their mind in our lifetime, but I believe they have some things to teach us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Remarkable post…..The heart to heart, compassionate relationship between mammals So much we don’t understand….man’s best friend, the dog will try to arose, summon help, they will nudge, lick and bark, a person who needs help, is near death or has died. Service dogs know when some one is going to experience a seizure, will alert. Dogs have been known to stay graveside for days..Dogs protect. Dolphins, through time have assisted some who are in the process of faltering in near drownings. They care….somehow they recognize a change, in perhaps a chaotic disarray within the atmosphere of electrical waves, pluse-ation. The heart is electrical. There must be levels of consciousness (is that the correct word I am looking for?) that we don’t understand….We understand so little…Life, what a mystery of discovery and wonder…..we ares so privileged to have the gift of life….Dolphins have learned to honor….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The sensitivity of dolphins and elephants and dogs is astounding. Other animals have also shown a strong tie to the feelings of human beings. We have had what we term “nurse cats,” who stay with an ailing person to comfort and provide company. There is so much we do not know about the animal kingdom, and that includes us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. they are way beyond us in many areas. we need to learn from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful. There is a small sand bar island not far from here, where dolphins sometimes come to say hello when we’re snorkeling, and stay for a while keeping us company. It’s a great experience. Thanks for sharing the link, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A friend of mine once went on a “swim with the dolphins” excursion. A sensitive woman, I asked her what they “felt” like. She said they seemed sad and exhausted. She told the dolphins that came up to her to go take care of themselves, and they immediately swam off. Too many humans wanting something from them, she told me.

    Now she may have been anthropomorphizing (the way most of us find meaning in any animal behavior), but the idea of it stuck with me as probably true.

    Liked by 1 person

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