Dave the Dolphin

There are many attractions to be had, here on the South Coast of England, on the last full day of our holiday.

We could tramp off to Marconi’s flagship lighthouse, from whence the first radio broadcast was made.

I could hop from Napoleonic fortress to Napoleonic fortress, marvelling at their strength and ingenuity.

I could visit Aspinall’s zoo, or take a kayak down the military canal.

Or, I could simply hang about here, waiting for Dave the Dolphin.

It was Dad who spotted the sign on the sea front, urging caution and respect for Dave.

My family and I had shambled past it, oblivious, all week.

Now to some of you reading in hotter and more exotic climes by far than ours, Dave may not seem that big a deal.

It’s possible you all have shoals of porpoises and dolphins cavorting along your coastlines, partying till late, imparting spiritual wholeness to whole boatloads of curious tourists.

Even in Cornwall, every respectable Wild Craggy Bay has its own dolphin.

But we’re just round the corner from Margate, for crying out loud.

This is deckchair-and-pier country, inundated with sticks of rock with kiss-me-quick shot through, homeland of chippies on the seafront, Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seasideland.

So one thing I would have to conclude about Dave, is that he is an eccentric.

He is a loner: unusual for bottlenose dolphins, I learn.

Once I knew of Dave’s existence I began ruthlessly to research his stay on the South Coast.

It seems he appeared here in 2006. And became an immediate celebrity.

One of the first discoveries, made by British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who moved in to take care of him, was that he was a she.

There were half-hearted attempts to rename her Davina (oh,please) but she remained, stubbornly, a girl called Dave.

Then the boat trips started. Everyone wanted a piece of Dave’s new-found fame and they stopped at nothing to get it.

Soon small boats were being commandeered to get a good long look at the dolphin who dared to visit the South Coast.

It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it, before someone tried to swim with Dave.

On June 9, 2007, two men were arrested for doing just that.

Apparently, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, there is actually a crime entitled’ Disturbing A Dolphin.’

The two unfortunates who found this out the hard way were found guilty and sentenced to do 120 hours of unaided work in recompense.

I was unable to ascertain what they were set as a task. I’m sure Marine Life Rescue thought of something inventive.

Celebrity had its drawbacks for Dave.

Boat propellers are not good for the health of little dolphins. In August 2007 she had a nasty gash to her dorsal fin. With expert vetinary care, it began to heal.

Now at this point, the experts say, most dolphins generally clear off.

One injury is enough, thankyou very much. There are quieter waters by far than this. I’ll see myself out.

But not Dave. She stayed on, only to lose one third of her tail in another accident in October.

This time it was life threatening. She had to take antibiotics, and we all know how grotty they can make you feel. A girl can only take so much, and the last sighting of Dave was in early November of that year.

The down-to earth people of the South Coast had loved too demonstratively. Their affectionate bear hug was too strong and just plain wrong. At best, Dave wanted out.

And I can find no record of her return. Although the sign looks pristine, and brand new. I can hope.

So we took our final walk along the beach, and we saw no dolphins.

We did see some very clever seagulls, carrying shells up high and dropping them to smash them and gobble up their contents.

But Dave becomes just another of the stories that will colour the towns that hug this stretch of shingle for years to come.

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4 thoughts on “Dave the Dolphin

  1. I swear this is not one-up-man-ship, it is sharing.

    A number of years ago I spent three weeks at Monkey Mia in Western Australia, where we are allowed to feed the dolphins under the watchful eyes of the rangers. Sometimes the dolphins will choose someone to give a fish to when they’ve fed well out at sea. Mostly, I think, they just enjoy the interaction.

    One rather ignorant woman kept grabbing at the dorsal fin of the matriarch of the pod. The dolphin gave warning flicks of her tail and splashed the woman, who couldn’t take a broad hint. So the dolphin turned and gave he fingers a nip. One would have thought a shark had taken her hand the way that woman carried on. No sympathy was given, just calls of, ‘Serves you right.’

    One day while I was sitting in shallow water at the far end of the bay, Nicky, a new mother dolphin, swam up beside me with her baby. I sat very still until Nicky nudged me, and I knew I could touch her. Expecting rough skin I was surprised at how smooth and velvety it felt, but even more surprised when the baby dolphin was allowed to come close for me to stroke him.

    They say dolphins can read humans, and know when we are in need of comfort. My reason for going to Monkey Mia was to be alone and have some healing time. Nicky and her baby coming so close, allowing me to touch them, and staying with me for as long as they did, may not have healed me but it is memory that brings joy every time I think of my time there. Three more times she came to me while I sat far from the crowd.

    1. They are quite astounding creatures aren’t they? We are constantly surprised by their perception, and enchanted by their beautiful spirits.

      But as your first incident shows, people sometimes don’t know how to love them. Touch is a form of posession, isn’t it, for some? Who knows why Dave chose here for 20 months? Maybe she just liked the party atmosphere.

      I’m kind of relieved she has moved on. She needed a quieter spot than the Channel, the busiest shipping lane for some distance.

  2. What exquisite stories, thank you Kate and Liz!

    Being scuba divers, dolphins are among our most favourite creatures. Yours is particularly special, Kate, as she shares a name with my husband, Dave 🙂 Really hope she found a peaceful place more to her liking.

    Thanks so much again for connecting on my blog – it’s a delight to discover yours!

    1. That’s the joy of blogging, isn’t it? Writers start off on some written conversation and all sorts of stories simply wander out to greet the life of day! I can’t stop thinking about Liz’s story, I have to admit, and It’s set me thinking scuba diving might be something to try one day.

      Your amazing question set my brain humming and I had a wonderful time answering it. I don’t do enough asking though, always set on transmit. I’ve learnt something today:-)
      And your photographs! A visual feast! When I have a little time I am looking forward to reading and seeing a lot more.

      Many thanks.

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