It’s a bright sunny day on Inis Oirr so I know that I have a busy day ahead of me. Plenty of people in the water and plenty of dolphin-human interactions to observe and record. As the ferry pulls into the bay while others take in the views and take photos, I’m getting ready by preparing my notebook and swinging my binoculars and camera around my neck. Getting off the ferry I turn onto the rocks next to the waiting horse and carts and scan the water.
Today a woman is swimming with Dusty, she has swum with Dusty regularly for over a decade. A crowd gathers around me on the rocks to watch and take photos. In the clear water near the pier, you can see to the bottom so you can see Dusty’s movements even when she is submerged.
A man who has swum with Dusty for many years joins them in the water. Dusty is getting a belly rub. She lies floating in the water, her belly facing the sky while she gets a rub. She then turns over and floats quite still while her back is being rubbed.
There are a number of people that swim with Dusty regularly. These are people she began swimming with many years ago. Now Dusty can be aggressive to people she hasn’t swum with before and slaps her tail on the surface of the water if people unknown to her attempt to swim with her, warning them to leave the water.
The women, man, and Dusty swim together for over an hour swimming side by side, diving together and lots of belly rubs. After a while, the people get out to dry off and get something to eat. The crowd on the rocks filters away with several people staying back to continue watching Dusty and to ask me questions about her. Dusty swims around the boats docked on the pier for a while and then swims out of the bay. The remaining watchers filter away to explore the rest of the Island. I stay there, notebook in hand, watching for her return.
Abigail O’Callaghan Platt is a Ph.D. researcher with GMIT and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Her passage to the Aran Islands is provided by the Doolin Ferry Company.
THE Doolin Ferry Company is a proud supporter of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). Founded in 1990 the IWDG is a mixture of educators, researchers, whale watchers, and conservationists who are all enthusiastic about marine wildlife with a particular focus on cetaceans. Cetaceans include marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises. For more information on Ireland’s marine mammals visit www.iwdg.ie.