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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 11:52 am |


Captain’s Log: Mermaids and Other Things That Go Splash at Sea

Birds, whales and dolphins are common sources of the spectacles

Splashes at sea are fairly common and often puzzling. Someone sees a splash — sometimes a large one — off in the distance and typically they spot it out of the corner of their eye. “What was that? Did you see that? It was a big splash!” — they’re all words we hear often on our charters aboard the WaveWalker.

There are so many things that go splash at sea that it is a difficult question to answer, but inquiring minds want to know. People wonder, “Did I see something special and out of the ordinary?” “Is there anything to be alarmed about?”

Some of the usual causes are birds (such as pelicans or seagulls) diving for anchovies or sardines; sea lions playing or chasing fish; dolphins or porpoise just being themselves; fish or sharks jumping; whales breaching off in the distance; and, of course, mermaids — hey, I am a captain, so naturally I believe in mermaids! So when passengers ask what that splash was, my favorite answer is, “Mermaid.”

One fascinating scenario involving numerous splashes is when a pod of dolphins encounters a baitball of anchovies or sardines and drives it to the surface to feed. Feeding dolphins tend to splash quite a bit. Birds fly fast and hard to such feeding opportunities because they are able to dive and catch those small fish while they are at the surface. It is a wild and wanton spectacle that grabs our attention.

Of all the splashes out there, whales breaching is perhaps the most exciting — except, of course, for the mermaid. A whale can make such a huge splash that, seen at a distance of a couple of miles, it can look like it is very nearby, especially when seen from the corner of an eye. When something weighing 80 tons splashes in the water, it is noticeable from a respectable distance.

The only thing bigger would be a meteorite, which gives me another possible answer when someone sees a big splash in the distance.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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