Installed on 18 Aug 2009. Latest Update 17 Oct 2018.
Revised or added material is in bold.
Gulfarium, Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
In 1966, while undergoing Navy flight training in Pensacola, FL, I read
a science fiction story (probably in Analog Science Fact/Fiction) about a
researcher who was attempting to establish inter-species communications
In the story, the researcher donned face mask, flippers, air tank, regulator
with associated paraphenalia, and
weights, and spent copious amounts of time amongst porpoises
in his research tank. Much to his chagrin, they ignored his
Then, he realized that he was overdoing it with all his scuba gear. He
shucked tank, regulator, and weights, and, armed strictly with
face mask and flippers, swam amongst them, doing the dolphin kick.
They warmed to this compromise and communications ensued.
Then I recalled that there was a porpoise facility only
fifty (highway) miles east of Pensacola, the
Gulfarium, at Ft. Walton Beach.
Just for kicks, I thought, I'd like to try what the fictional researcher
had done. (I had spent half of my youth underwater with face mask
Off to the Gulfarium!
Once there, I told the manager about being in the Navy, and the gist of
the Science Fiction account. Would it be possible for me to swim
in the tank with his porpoises, like the guy in the story?
"You say you're in the Navy?" He asked.
"May I see your ID card?"
He studied the ID card a bit.
"OK, but you'll have to do it between shows."
When the time came to enter the tank I asked the manager, "Any special
"No. They should pretty much ignore you." (Seems like there were four or
five porpoises and about three sea turtles in the tank.)
Just before I entered the water, the manager called out, "Oh, one thing.
Don't mess with the smallest sea turtle."
"He bites, right?"
"No. That's not it at all. That smallest turtle is a pet of the biggest
porpoise. She walks it around the bottom of the tank like you'd walk your
dog. She's nice and won't bother you, but if you mess with the turtle,
she'll bump you."
Into the tank!
As advised, the porpoises pretty much left me to my
devices. I swam the dolphin kick all over the place, coming up for air, as
required, but, other than being washed about in their
wake turbulence, I could perceive no curiosity about the stranger in their
Just before I exited the tank, I was swimming upside down and angling
downward toward the bottom south side of the tank. When I got to
about two feet from the bottom, I rolled upright and found myself
one foot from the smallest sea turtle. Three feet to the left,
was the biggest porpoise, looking at me.
As I climbed up onto the enter/exit platform, one of the porpoises (don't
recall which one) was just below the surface, watching my exit.
At that point, it dawned on me. If any inter-species communications
occurred today, it consisted of the large porpoise thinking:
"They told him."
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