My Love of Dolphins–Origins

bottle-nosed dolphinOne of the basic tenets of writing is “write what you know.” Well, there are many people who know me and are wondering, “How does Kip know dolphins?”

I developed my interest in dolphins and the oceans early in my life. I grew up in Leonardo, NJ–not exactly a dolphin or ocean “hot spot.” In fact, the little town was on the south side of Sandy Hook Bay–an area not know as a pristine marine environment. On a clear day, the views from Leonardo Beach and Leonardo Marina took in not only Sandy Hook, but Staten Island and New York City. As a kid, I’d go fishing from the jetty at the mouth of the marina with friends from school and surf fishing with my brother Kevin from the beach. My friend, Jack Hueston and I would beachcomb, sein for bait fish (to keep or sell) and check our trap for “killies” (again to keep or sell).


At the same time two things helped develop my love of the oceans/marine environment and, eventually, in dolphins–family vacations to Anna Maria Island in Florida and watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau on television.

We stayed at my grandparents’ house on Anna Maria Island–only about 100 yards from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. In the mornings, we would often walk a few miles on the beach–me, stooped over collecting sea shells (I developed into quite a collector) or looking out over the water for dolphins. As I got older, I’d search for live sea shells while snorkeling and if dolphins were passing by I’d try to swim towards them. I never got close enough to see them or swim with them–but, I always tried.

jacques-cousteau-v1-1The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was what drove my interest in dolphins and in being underwater. My friend Jack and I bought snorkeling gear–mask, snorkel, fins and (for some reason) dive knives. We found a place along Sandy Hook Bay (near a small fuel tank farm) where a concrete-encased pipeline had turned into a small artificial reef. With sometimes a whopping five feet of visibility we’d snorkel along the “reef”–observing fish, little anemones, crabs and mollusks. As a shell collector, I was always interested in the various snails, oysters and mussels we found.

At the same time, the TV show inspired me to read Jacques Cousteau’s books–every thing from The Silent World to Dolphins. I began to read more books on dolphins and very early on discovered the headier dolphin works of researcher John C. Lilly. In my seventh grade life science class, I remember doing extensive research for an oral presentation on the dolphins that were being killed in tuna fishing nets.

At one point in time, I switched from wanting to be a malacologist (a scientist who studies mollusks–the live critters who create sea shells) to wanting to be a marine mammologist. Of course, I was attracted to the charismatic megafauna. Because of Lilly’s influence, I was particularly interested in dolphin communication.

So, the seeds of my interest in dolphins were planted young. And, that love of and interest in dolphins–and those early influences of Cousteau and Lilly–definitely have had a major impact on the creation of Wendall’s Lullaby.

~ by kipwkoelsch on September 7, 2017.

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