National Geographic : 1966 Sep
Trapped! A bottlenose netted in shallow Biscayne Bay off Miami, Florida, wheels and splashes to escape from the seine that surrounds it. Collecting team from the Miami Seaquari um dropped the half-mile-long net in a huge circle around a school of porpoises; now they draw the noose tighter. After disentangling flippers and flukes, they lift one captive-a baby bottlenose-into the skiff (below). Unwilling to sepa rate mother and young, they turned it loose moments later 400 to rejoin its parent outside the net. streaked for the horizon, heading toward Africa. I thought to myself, well, that ends that experiment. The scientists, who had worked with these porpoises for months, were unperturbed. One of the train ers set forth in an outboard motor boat. In about 15 minutes, to my amazement, the boat came buzzing back with Dolly and Dinah follow ing, leaping and splashing in the bright blue water. The trainer had called them to the boat with a pinger, a battery-powered underwater sig naler resembling a flashlight (page 407). After a few tries he got them back into their pen through a gate, fed them some fish, and taught them that this was their new home. No Echo Problems in Open Sea During the next few days we made tape recordings and measurements of background noise-the under water sounds of the sea around Sea Hunter, against which the porpoises must compete if they are to hear their own sonar echoes. Then we took the listening gear over to the porpoise pen. I put on the earphones. Others listened to the loudspeaker as the scientists watched a flickering needle that measuredsound volume. I heard at first only the sea noise, a constant soughing whisper. Then, at a signal, the porpoises zeroed in on us, using their sonar as they came. I heard a snap, sharp as a rifle shot but higher pitched; then another, then an ear-piercing, rasping buzz. The volume needle shot across the dial, and Dolly and Dinah ap peared beside the hydrophone. They rolled over and smiled toothily, awaiting their reward. They got True albino porpoise, Carolina Snow ball frolics as a trainer cleans a viewing window at the Miami Seaquarium. Cap tured off the South Carolina coast, the pink-eyed beauty lived in this $100,000 pool built especially for her. "Gentlest animal we ever had," her four trainers agree. Carolina's death last year saddened the entire Seaquarium staff. An autopsy revealed she suffered from liver and heart ailments and other complications.