A dolphin stampede was observed off the coast of California. Whale watchers sailing through the region got a glimpse of the one brilliant display of these mammals racing through the water in hoards.
A tour boat full of eager whale watchers were riveted to a rare sight off the Dana Point coast on Thursday. Hundreds of dolphins were spotted darting at high speeds in the ocean. While it is not clear where they were headed or for what they were swimming so furiously, the large swarm of the mammals stirred up the ocean, much to the delight of the tourists.
Hundreds of dolphins — without warning or provocation — began “stampeding,” or charging, through the water to the delight of whale watchers, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime show on Thursday, reported NBC Los Angeles. The catamaran tour was sitting off Dana Point in Orange County. The region is one of the best spots to see “mega-pods” of dolphins. However, the whale watching crowd aboard Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari watercraft had no idea they’d get to witness such a sight, reported Los Angeles Times.
“This breathtaking behavior can happen at any time and without any apparent cause.”
The technical term for a dolphin darting across the ocean, while jumping out of the water in quick succession, is called porpoising. The method is fastest mode of travel available to the creature since there is less resistance in the air than in water, continues the post. Speaking about the phenomenon, Dave Anderson, owner of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point shares his thoughts.
“I would say stampedes are one of those most amazing things I’ve seen in 20 years of whale watching. It’s completely exhilarating. Porpoising — when dolphins repeatedly leap from the water — is their fastest mode of travel, allowing them to move at speeds of up to 20 knots, or nearly 25 mph. Everyone screams at first, and then everyone is totally silent. All you can hear is a just a really loud splashing sound. It’s kind of like being in a herd of stampeding horses, but you are not afraid you will get stepped on.”
Marine experts aren’t confident that dolphins flying through the air, albeit for a small amount of time, are doing so to cover more distance in lesser amount of time. This is because, leaping in the air requires submerging a little deeper in the water and then surging upwards, achieving momentum that would allow the dolphin to “jump.” This necessitates swimming in a curve. Then, there’s the surface tension of the water that needs to be broken every single time the dolphin leaps out of the water and enters it.
Considering the fact that dolphins are built exceptionally well to swim underwater and come to the surface to breath, it would be futile to consider jumping out of the water just to travel faster. Instead, some experts feel such behavior isn’t meant to cover larger distance in lesser time, but rather enjoy the journey. One more alternate theory is that the dolphins attempt to conserve energy by jumping clear of the water. As dolphins swim in the water using their tails, flying through the air allows them keep the tail stationary, albeit for a small time.
Dolphins are highly intelligent and playful creatures. Hence the dolphin stampede could be some sort of team activity that a large school of the mammals play. But, to a human eye, the speed and sheer strength of the swarm of dolphins could seem like a stampede, in which these creatures are apparently fleeing a powerful predator or some other danger.
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