Tuesday, October 02, 2018

"Porpoises"

In the 1950s Franklin William (Bill) Cochran operated a flying service between Hatteras and Ocracoke. He was also an occasional contributor to local publications. The following undated clipping is part of the collection at the Ocracoke Preservation Society. [Although porpoises and dolphins are different species, Outer Bankers traditionally used the terms interchangeably. The aquatic animals most often seen in Outer Banks waters are bottlenose dolphins.]

Bottlenose Dolphin (NASA photo)













PORPOISE PATH PARALLELS PLANE ON OUTER BANKS
Cape Hatteras Flier Usually Finds The Fish In Ocean All Going His Way
By FRANKLIN M.[sic] COCHRAN

Buxton. — Knowing absolutely nothing about the habits, haunts and inner character of the Porpoise, I feel that I can speak freely. To me, they seem friendly. They may have the blackest hearts of all the fish in the sea. Being mammals, like us, this might well be. They always seem to be smiling or grinning, and playful. Anyway, I like 'em.

Lately, off Cape Hatteras can be seen the phenomena of fishes flying, although they aren't flying fishes. They're baby porpoises and their mother's are teaching them, of all things, the fine art of breathing.

A porpoise, as all porpoise lovers know, has a rather nasty habit of bumping. This would be apt to get anything but another porpoise a punch in the snoot, but it is their way of manifesting either affection or anger. The oomph behind the bump is calculated to measure the amount of emphasis needed to suit the occasion.

Naturally, with a new-born baby porpoise, a careful, somewhat loving little bump will at first suffice to get him out of the water and into the air, where he can take himself a helping of the breath of life. For, believe it or not, he requires from the start, the very same air we breathe, minus the smog, to sustain life. For the porpoise is: "A warm-blooded mammal that suckles its young on milk and would drown if it did not frequently rise to the surface of the sea to breathe air."

The baby porpoise, of course, does not understand all of this, never having read the encyclopedia, hence the game of "bumpsy."

Just about every species of fish that swims in the sea has been caught at some time or another off the beaches of the Outer Banks. Even the sawfish and the headfish Game fish and pan fish are plentiful. When the season runs out on one species, two or three other varieties arrive in time to steal your bait. But they're all fickle and seasonal—except old "gandi-dancer," the porpoise.. He stays with me all year.

When you are flying alone and the ocean is glassy-smooth and there's no sign of life on sea or shore, it's lonesome. Then a porpoise cuts the surface, making a graceful ripple. Another one makes a smooth, surfacing maneuver, and then another. You can follow their track as they dive and surface, dive and surface. Sometimes the whole ocean is alive with the creatures. 

And what do you know, they're all going my way!

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This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an essay by Philip Howard explaining why he decided to stay on the island as Hurricane Florence approached. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/why-i-stayed/.

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