Exploding dolphins not the best way to dispose of carcass

A dead dolphin at Broadstrand, Seven Heads, West Cork, carried in on a high tide and now above the tideline, so not likely to be carried out again. It’s a big animal, rotund and heavy. It’s on a popular walking route: what’s to be done?

Exploding dolphins not the best way to dispose of carcass

It will, inevitably, be scavenged by birds, possibly even foxes, but it will make an unsightly picture and an unwelcome smell for some time. One hopes that most walkers will understand that while we enjoy wild creatures in life, we can hardly damn them in death.

What greatly impressed me were the teeth. The serried rows of razor-sharp matching pairs on top and bottom jaws would allow no hope of escape for any creature caught between them. For all their frolics and their human-friendly intercourse, dolphins are deadly hunters.

The species on Broadstrand is the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) that occurs around Ireland; the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) is generally found in warmer waters. It has the most teeth of any dolphin species, as many as 65 interlocking pairs.

On occasions when I’ve gone to sea with Colin Barnes on his Cork Whale Watch boat plying out of Reen Pier, near Union Hall, I’ve never failed to enjoy close encounters with 100 or more dolphins. From every point of the compass, they come, leaping over the sea like horses over hurdles at Cheltenham — but there are no fences, of course, and perhaps they travel like this partly for the speed, partly for the joy of being airborne.

On the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website, I see that a school of 200 dolphins was encountered off the Blasket Islands on May 12.

They always seem to be having a great time as they speed toward the boat. One can almost see them grinning. They travel in sociable pods, cavorting, spinning, leaping full out of the water, upending and returning head first. Dolphin grins seem to us, of course, like expressions of their delight at meeting us, and of sharing of the sheer joy of being at sea. However, they can’t be quite as amusing for a shoal of corralled mackerel of herring about to become sashimi without the wasabi and soya sauce. So much for anthropomorphism.

On the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website, basking sharks are also mentioned, a great number of these huge fish seen surface-deep in and around the mouth of Cork Harbour. If they obligingly migrate west, it’s possible that land-based basking shark viewing will become a feature of the Wild Atlantic Way. Once past Kinsale, they can be classified as genuine Wild Atlantic Way fauna.

I have been reading Paul Clements’s very enjoyable account of his revisiting the route he hitchhiked in the early 1990s which, two-years ago, was endowed with the evocative name of The Wild Atlantic Way. It is a wonderful route but it is something of a surprise for my Seven Heads neighbours to find it taking a very narrow and notorious inland road from Timoleague to Clonakilty when a glorious route, overlooking the western ocean all the way from the Old Head of Kinsale to the Galley Head, is available, a truly wild, Atlantic, elevated and elevating route.

Paul finds his ‘sites of exquisite beauty’ haven’t changed, nor has the delight of an encounter with a Wild Atlantic Way native with endless educational, uplifting and side-splitting stories to tell. Paul make a great job of retelling them. His Wandering Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, published by The Collins Press, is an engaging mix of travel, nature and social commentary.

We already see the occasional motor-home weaving west and testing local drivers’ patience as they — very sensibly — crawl at snail pace along the aforementioned inland road. So, the tourists are coming; let us hope they don’t fill their on-board wine cellars at home and buy no more than a half-pint of porter between two in the pub, meanwhile enjoying the music the hard-pressed landlord has paid for.

But to return to the dolphin on the strand. Perhaps some hearty young shovel-wielders should bury it; I’m getting a bit old to do it myself.

However, let us not resort to the Florence, Oregon solution. When a dead 15m, 8-tonne Pacific gray whale washed up on the beach, a local engineer had a bright idea for its disposal: they should blow it up. The explosion sent pieces of carcass raining down on the town. A piece as big as a silage bale crushed a parked car, and sizeable bits were scattered for a kilometre around.

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