MIAMI -- When I
said I was going to swim with the dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium,
a friend said, It sounds pretty hokey.
But standing up
to my waist in water, my hand on a 500-pound silver-blue creature
with a massive head, zipper-like teeth, a sphincter blowhole, and
what appeared to be a smiling face, I found it anything but hokey.
It was amazing.
The Swim With the
Dolphins program began with a short training session in which we
were given a briefing on dolphin etiquette, covering, among other
things, good touching and bad touching.
trained using positive and negative reinforcement, just like
children: They are fed a fish if theyre good but get no fish and a
time out (three to five seconds of being ignored) if theyre
If being ignored
works, it seemed that meant they like interacting with
They seem to, the
trainer said. We cant tell what goes on in their heads. We cant ask
them. But they will stay and interact with us as long as we want
participants and I slipped into wetsuits and filed out onto an
underwater platform that brought us waist high to a
The animals power
was awesome as they snapped their tails and whipped their huge
bodies high into the air above the water. The climax of the
demonstration was when we held on to the dolphins dorsal fins as
they took us for a ride.
There are 22
dolphins at the seaquarium, ages 7 to 18.
The park sits on
38 acres of land that juts into Biscayne Bay and encloses a number
of exhibition areas, including the Golden Dome, where the sea lion
show is held; the Whale and Dolphin Stadium; the Main Reef
Aquarium, a 750,000-gallon tank filled with a variety of sealife;
and the Shark Channel, where the sharks are fed.
The top deck and
the roof of the main building, which houses fish aquariums and the
dolphin shows, is under renovation, scheduled to be completed in
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].