Dolphin Encounters of a Third Kind


Among all the various creatures on Kiawah, one that draws substantial attention is that of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, Tursiops truncates. Both migratory and inland populations can be seen with an estimated 25 or so that show a specific liking, or high degree of site fidelity for the Kiawah River. Fascination with these creatures extends far into history, evidenced and immortalized in ancient drawing and literature. The Greeks had particular reverence for dolphins, weaving them within the lore of their gods and creating dolphin shaped currency.

To this day dolphins still captivate citizens and scientists alike. Research into their widely known intelligence and language is abundant. As scientists probe their language of clicks, whistles, and quacks it is continually realized more complex than current knowledge can comprehend. With complex behavior and social structures come complex forms of communication. As many are well aware of the unique behavior of “strand feeding,” whereby local dolphin herd fish onto land in a coordinated effort, marine biologists, both local and abroad are studying the communication allowing such an effort. Scientists often employ hydrophones to record and analyze the various vocalizations of dolphins. As you may guess, hydrophones are basically underwater microphones set to pick up sound generated pressure differences underwater.

In an effort to bring science to the public, this spring The Kiawah Island Nature Program will be using hydrophones during our dolphin watching excursions to listen in on their secret underwater world. We hope to gain personal insight along with our guests as we view some of the most beautiful creatures in the world within an unparalleled setting.

~Michael Frees, Naturalist