15 September 2009

Falling for dolphins

Serge Brunier has a nice photo of the Milky Way. [1]

It is reported that in a collection of stories called Bhagavata purana:
all the visible stars and planets moving through space are likened to a dolphin that swims through the water
Well maybe. It's important not to be sentimental about cetaceans. Dan Everett has a nice story though:
It was about 5:45, the most beautiful time of day, when the sun glows orange and the river’s reflective darkness stands out against the rusty color of sky and the luxuriant spinach green of the jungle. As I sat idly watching and sipping my coffee, I was startled by the sight of two small gray porpoises jumping in synch out of the river. I had no idea that there were freshwater porpoises. Almost immediately, from around the bend came two Pirahã canoes, their riders paddling for all they were worth, in pursuit of the porpoises, trying to touch them with their paddles. It was a game of tag, porpoise tag.

Apparently the porpoises enjoyed themselves because they continually came up just out of reach of the men in canoes. This went on for half an hour, until darkness brought an end to the chase. The Pirahã in the canoes and on the banks (for by now a crowd had gathered) were laughing hysterically. As they stopped chasing the porpoises, the porpoises disappeared. (In all my years watching this contest between mammals, no porpoise has ever been 'tagged').
Everett also writes that:
the most striking thing I remember about seeing the Pirahãs for the first time was how happy everyone seemed.
I assume that when Everett says porpoise he is in fact referring to the Amazon River Dolphin, Inia Geoffrensis.


[1] P.S. 22 Sep: A picture of Milky Way centre by Stéphane Guisard.

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