CAUSE OF DEATH 06/11/2008
 

Some of the dolphins stranded in Cornwall.


i'm not sure how widely England's local news stories are reported in the States, but in case anyone out there didn't hear, i wanna talk briefly about something that happened on Monday in southwest England.

around the area known as Cornwall, over 40 dolphins beached themselves on shore in four locations.  reporters called it a "mass stranding" of marine life, and the worst one to be found in the UK in almost 30 years.  experts on the scene worked day and night trying to coax the surviving dolphins back into the sea, but they were unsuccessful and 26 dolphins died on the beach. 

the dolphins examined were all in good physical condition and were well-fed.  there was nothing to suggest they had stranded themselves due to illness or poor health.  the whole thing is particularly curious because the dolphins weren't in the same exact location, but spread over four different sites.  what made these animals do it?  there are lots of theories...

one story suggested that because the stranding occurred at the same time of day in all four locations, perhaps a Navy exercise or disturbance spooked the dolphins and they fled ashore in response.  another suggests they could have been fleeing a large predator such as a whale.  why a dolphin would see land as a safe haven i do not know.  you'd think they'd view land as the ultimate enemy...

my own thoughts wander to an old episode of The Simpsons (a Treehouse of Horror story called "The Night of the Dolphin") where Lisa Simpson sets a captive dolphin named Snorky free, only to find that Snorky is actually the king of all dolphins, and now that he's free, he can lead the dolphin population onto land, where they will "take back" the land they say the humans stole from them.  it's classic Simpsons, and it plays on the often noted fact that dolphins are highly intelligent, advanced creatures.

comedy aside, the dolphin story made me think a little bit about just how intelligent dolphins may be.  if marine life experts can't explain the mass stranding episode with facts and figures, where else might we go for an explanation?  could it be that perhaps dolphins are indeed so complex in their intelligence that they could feel depression or madness and orchestrate a mass-suicide?

animals who have their intelligence compared to that of humans, as dolphins do, may face some adverse conditions.  the complexities of the human brain have brought countless mental defects and disorders onto man.  advanced brain function comes at a high price.  so, could it be that dolphins are starting to suffer the same fate as humans?  could there be a dolphin version of Jim Jones in their midst?  was the mass-stranding actually a dolphin version of Jonestown or perhaps Heaven's Gate?

no one knows.  but if it could be that dolphins' brains are susceptible to the same confusion and sadness as humans, well then, i feel really, really bad for the dolphins.