Common Dolphins

Seeing Dolphins Free in the Ocean

My daughter learned to read basically due to a love of dolphins. She was so determined to learn about dolphins that she would work hard to read every book she could find about them.

So when we saw dolphins on a whale-watching trip, the hours of rolling ocean, empty but for a few birds, became worth it for those few moments when the dolphins visited the front of the boat.

Possible common dolphins visiting a whale-watching boat, off Morro Bay, California, 8/2009

I had thought of dolphins as playful, and they did indeed leap up alongside the boat. But I had not realized how mysterious they would seem, how their backs seemed to have the same pattern and colors of the ocean ripples so that they would seem to rise suddenly out of some deep place. Due to their camouflage, we noticed them at the last moment as they came near the surface. They were gray, as I expected, but their backs had a greenish cast, almost emerald. We had seen so little green after hours on the boat that this color seemed even more beautiful.

The pictures we have of the dolphins don't capture how effortlessly they moved and how they would zip up, down and around each other. They seemed to be traveling each on their own zigzag paths but all in the same direction.

Common Dolphins

On our whale-watching boat, the captain mentioned that the dolphins we photographed were either Pacific white-sided dolphins or common dolphins. In studying the photos, I am inclined to think they are common dolphins, which despite their name, have a beautiful color pattern. According to the American Cetacean Society, they have the most elaborate color pattern of any cetacean.

When including both the short-beaked and long-beaked varieties of common dolphins, they have an incredible range from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to the coasts of Japan to California. They like waters near coasts but venture most into the deep in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Latin America.

Dolphin Symbolism

For me and my daughter, dolphins are a symbol of a connection between us and the sea. Since they fly up out of the water and breathe, it seems they are joining us on land. They seemed to want to visit us on the boat as if they wanted to see outside the sea.

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