Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Beach Theater

The past several weeks have been perfect for enjoying dolphin displays just offshore, in the breakers and beyond. These playful marine mammals are numerous in Ocracoke's waters this time of year. On virtually any given day you need only walk onto the beach and cast your eyes out toward the water. In a matter of minutes you'll notice dorsal fins gliding by. It is not unusual to see these creatures (especially the younger, light gray ones) jumping, twisting, and turning. Sometimes two or more will dart up out of the water and dive back, their tails slapping the surface, sending spray into the air. One of the most enjoyable sights is watching their sleek bodies ride the waves, just under the surface. It is almost impossible not to anthropomorphize these delightful animals. They must be having so much fun, we think. And they probably are. Why else would they be riding the waves?

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Sam Jones, Island Legend. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Philip, two points: one, where are the photos of these amazing and talented sea creatures you keep teasing us mainlanders about in your blogs????????

    Second point: Loved the word: wait, I have to go back to your blog and copy it...."anthropomorphize"....I have to confess, I haven't seen this word for a long time and am having to look it up for an accurate definition.

    As always, your blogs challenge the mind and give us something to ponder.

    Much obliged!

  2. Photos?? Honestly I seldom carry a camera to the beach (and I turn off my cell phone, too), because I simply enjoy being out there, not working. However, I'll see if Amy has any photos (or would be willing to take some). But don't hold your breath. Several years ago when a huge whale stayed just offshore for about two hours several of us tried to get decent pictures, but nothing turned out well. Mostly they just looked like dark blobs out beyond the breakers. Maybe we need more sophisticated equipment.

    Oh, and about my vocabulary -- I don't mean to overuse sesquipedalian words. Sometimes they're just the most appropriate ones for the occasion.

  3. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Wow, what a treat! Do you see them in every season? Ever spot porpoises

  4. I am no zoologist, but I believe the marine mammals we see at Ocracoke are bottlenose dolphins. I do know that their teeth are conical since I've seen the teeth of dead animals. I understand that porpoises have flattened teeth and shorter beaks, but are otherwise difficult to tell apart from dolphins. I do not believe we have porpoises in this vicinity, but I really don't know.

  5. Anonymous7:56 PM

    Several years ago, while driving my 4x4 on the beach, I spotted a pod "body surfing." It seemed that when they noticed that they had an audience..I was keeping pace with them...they enjoyed putting on the show as much as I enjoyed watching. Amazing creatures to watch. And, no, I had no camera. And, no again, I no longer drive on the beach!!

  6. Anonymous5:31 AM

    From Anonymous #1....Philip, point made and well taken! :)

  7. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Are we both loving and hating on electronics these days. Will Lachlan grow up not knowing what a paper envelope is or how to hand write a note because the post office has fallen by the wayside-- will he contribute to your blog by downloading a video from his cell phone in the years to come? Will the baby boomer generation cut costs and rely on the hand written correspondence as the cost of phones and internet seem to increase each year due to more aps that no one uses If the turn to the post office to late-- with the budget short falls --what will there be the Facebook millionaire has sold out to create a AdvertizinginyourFacebook monster

  8. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Hi there..we do get harbor porpoise too. fyi!

  9. Thanks for the info about porpoises. How can you tell them apart?

  10. Anonymous10:48 AM

    One way to tell is to look at the shape of the dorsal fin sticking up out of the water. Bottlenose dolphins have fins that curve back while the harbor porpoise is more triangular. The porpoise don't jump out as much, so seeing one isn't always all that easy. I came across a dead young harbor porpoise on the beach near Frisco last I had an up close look. Beautiful animal. There are several differences, including different markings/color and a shorter rostrum than a bottlenose.

  11. Anonymous5:34 PM

    My partner and I have stayed in Ocracoke for many summers over the past 20 years. We love it there so much, especially the beach. But as much as we love the beach just to sit on, walk on, collect shells from, and, in his case, swim (I am a bit of a chicken) in the ocean--one of our favorite things is to watch the dolphins swim and cavort past us. We watch them for as long as we can still see them. SOOO beautiful!