by RALPH NADING HILL
THE porpoise is a superior animal with a sense of humor, curiosity, and imagination more highly developed than that of the dog. He is a member of the whale family, whose far ancestors came out of the sea onto the land and, unlike most other air-breathing mammals, returned to the sea. But his distant kinship with the cow and deer is unmistakable. There is a telling resemblance between the bones of his flippers and the forelegs of most other mammals, for the flippers contain five fingers of bone as well as other characteristics of a typical mammalian arm. In the pelvic region are imbedded two small bones, all that are left of the hind legs that supported this creature scores of millions of years ago when he was walking about on land. Similarity to the cud-chewing group of land animals is also seen in proteins of the blood serum — a new chemical method of judging kinship in the animal world.
The second porpoise birth observed in history (the first was at the Brighton Aquarium in England) took place on December 23, 1939, when a 400-pound female which had mated in the sea delivered a premature calf weighing less than 25 pounds at the Marine Studios in Florida. The frantic mother pushed her baby to the surface with her snout and patiently held her there so that she might draw her first breath—a pathetic effort in view of the fact that her calf was dead. Presently two divers went into the tank, retrieved the calf, and tried without success to give it artificial respiration.
Inasmuch as the biologist had no way of knowing whether there would ever be another birth in the oceanarium, this was a keen disappointment. Reassurance was eventually forthcoming, however. Since the Studios reopened following the war, there has been scarcely a year when the porpoise population has not been augmented by one or more. The first to be born alive in captivity was delivered on February 26, 1947, a banner day for the founders of the Marine Studios and an exciting one for the biologists who had spent many hours waiting at the portholes. As the hour of delivery approached and the mother withdrew from the school to the side of the tank, the other porpoises grew uneasy, as they do when anything unusual interrupts their routine. Journeying swiftly about the tank, they paused to examine her as her labor progressed and then excitedly resumed their swimming. All the while a strange barking, unlike usual porpoise sounds, could be heard in the passageways.
At 1:15 P.M. the tail of the infant appeared, and at 1:25 the fetus fell free. Just as it did so the mother whirled about in a sharp movement that snapped the umbilical cord. At that very moment the baby, a female, began to swim upward. The mother was directly below her, ready to assist her to the surface, as were two other adult females swimming closely on either side. All the other porpoises were gathered tightly around to protect the mother and infant from several sand-bar sharks that were excitedly milling about because of the blood in the water. When the sharks swam near they were adroitly butted aside by watchful porpoises on the flank of the school.
Immediately upon drawing her first breath the infant picked up speed in the quick undulating or galloping motion that is characteristic of porpoises, and had no difficulty in keeping up with the rather swift pace of the school. A little less than an hour and a half later she began to probe the side of her mother for the two nipples hidden in small folds on her underside, and soon she was nursing. Because porpoises are constantly in motion the ordinary nursing apparatus will not do. If the calf were to suckle in the usual manner, he would scarcely have time to find the nipple before it was time to rise to the surface for another gulp of air. Nature has accordingly designed the mammary glands so that they secrete milk into little reservoirs where it is stored. When the infant grasps the nipple between his tongue and upper jaw the mother, by contracting certain muscles in her abdomen, can in a few seconds squirt a considerable amount of milk into the baby’s mouth. The 1947 cub nursed every fifteen to thirty minutes day and night, and at all times swam very close to the mother, generally at her flank.
Continuing their role as midwives and protectors, the two other females convoyed the mother and baby about the tank, devoting most of their energies to chasing away three inquisitive and aggressive males. These persisted in chasing mother and infant and on several occasions succeeded in nipping the calf— not, obviously, with an intention to kill, which they could easily have done, but more out of curiosity. Their toothmarks on the infant were shallow and did not pierce the blubber. However, since the aggression of the largest buck was more than the mother and her attending females could cope with, the aquarists fed him fish doped with paraldehyde. These almost put him to sleep and he lost all interest in the chase.
As the days passed, the baby, very thin at birth, filled out rapidly on her diet of rich porpoise milk and gained steadily in strength. The Marine Studios biologists now knew that the oceanarium was not only a likely but a most satisfactory place for a selfperpetuating school of porpoises. The many births that have since taken place have enabled the staff to add much to their understanding of a realm of aquatic life about which little had been known. They have found that the female bottle-nosed dolphin may reach sexual maturity at the age of four, and that she bears one infant at a time, the first usually in the spring of her fifth year, and not more than one every other year thereafter — in captivity, at least.
The gestation period is approximately twelve months. As with large herbivorous animals whose young must be able to stand and walk almost immediately in order to follow the mother from pasture to pasture, the long gestation period enables porpoise young to be well-developed and relatively self-reliant at birth. Labor consumes from a few minutes to almost two hours. The babies, usually three feet long, are born tail-first, which is most unusual. But how else could this creature deliver its young? Since porpoises must rise to the surface every minute or so to breathe, the baby would drown if it were born head-first. The birth of a porpoise is most critical, requiring almost splitsecond timing on the part of the mother if she is to turn about quickly, sever the umbilical cord, help her young to the surface for its first breath, and successfully start him on his cycle of swimming and breathing.
Marineland aquarists know of no animal with so strong a maternal instinct, unless it is the monkey, which has been known to carry its stillborn infant around for several days. In one stillbirth the mother porpoise tried to raise her dead infant to the surface by seizing one of his fins with her jaws. When a six-month-old calf died as the result of an accident, its mother endeavored to lift its inert body from the bottom of the tank by grasping it with her pectoral fins. On another occasion a male porpoise about two weeks old, found alone in the surf near the Marine Studios, was placed in the circular tank. Apparently he had not nursed for several days, for he immediately swam to two pregnant females and tried to suckle. The foster mothers swam slowly to help him, but unfortunately their pregnancies were not far enough along for them to be in milk. They looked after him as best they could, however, and when he died it was as if they had lost one of their own.
LONG before the calf is weaned his inborn sense of humor begins to assert itself. When the 1947 female was only five weeks old she began to stray for short periods to examine the fish that hide in the rocks at the bottom of the tank. She would poke her snout into a red snapper’s cave and force him out of his back door tail-first. Then she would go around to the back door and by nipping at his tail try to force him out the front. She enjoyed imitating the older porpoises by rushing at the sharks and rays then in the tank and shying off at the last moment. She took a liking to the youngest of the other porpoises, a female, and spent hours with her romping through the water and leaping free in a maritime game of tag.
The mother would put up with this for a short interval and then seek to stop the game by swimming between the calf and her friend. More often than not this served merely to intensify the fun, with the calf trying to maneuver her friend between herself and her mother as all three zigzagged through the tank. At last the exasperated mother would butt the friend with her head or lash her with her tail. Yet she would never administer such corporal punishment to her youngster. The discipline of a porpoise mother is that of infinite patience— in the case of the calf and her friend, of trying doggedly to separate them until the calf, exhausted at last, retired to the side of her mother for rest and nourishment.
When the 1947 calf was two years old she learned to come to the aquarist to be petted and have her head rubbed. All he had to do was to swirl the water at the surface with his hand, a sound which the calf could easily distinguish, for she would come aflying even though she had not seen him. She very easily learned to stick her snout through a small inflated inner tube and carry it back to him — or, with unerring aim, to throw it back. This she did by coming up from underneath, spearing it with her snout, and, as she surfaced, hurling it through the air with a quick sideways movement of her snout. With her head entirely out of water she would await the return of the inner tube by eying the aquarist like a fielder watching a high fly. If he tried to hide the tube or lose himself behind the spectators, the calf would unfailingly spot him in the crowd and call impatiently through her blowhole with a grating sound like that made by running one’s finger over the teeth of a comb. Another calf would toss the tube straight into the air and catch it on her snout as it came down. A third liked to carry it down to the bottom of the tank, disengage it from his snout, and try to tuck it under a rock so that it could not rise to the surface. At such a depth the inner tube invariably shot upward with great force, much to his bewilderment.
The game of throwing back or fetching the inner tube is elementary so far as retrieving is concerned. One porpoise, particularly, gains a certain perverse satisfaction in hurling the tube so high and so far that it sails over the railing at the top of the oceanarium and down into the street. Visitors are likely to find an object, even a small coin, that is by chance dropped into the tank, suddenly returned to them. For a porpoise to pick up a coin with an overshot lower jaw requires quite a bit of doing; but having once succeeded in grasping it, he will swim to the surface and flip it up onto the walkway. A cameraman by accident lost his rubber lens shade in the water one day. He was flabbergasted when an obliging porpoise returned it a moment later. Another startled observer who for sport threw a bony fish-head into the tank got it back immediately — in his face.
On the top deck around the tank are frequently seen shells and other objects which the porpoises have tossed up when no one would play with them and there was nothing better to do. They have frequently been observed balancing shells or pieces of coquina rock on their snouts and carefully making their way upward. As soon as they reach the surface they tip their heads, allow the object to sink, and try to recapture it before it reaches the bottom. When spectators first saw this game they were so amused that the aquarist decided to drop several six-inch colored discs of plastic into the tank. Even the reserved old bull, ordinarily above the childish pranks of the younger porpoises, was shortly to be seen parading through the tank with a plastic disc smartly balanced on his snout.
There has long been a superstition among mariners that porpoises will save drowning men by pushing them to the surface, or protect them from sharks by surrounding them in defensive formation. Marine Studios biologists have pointed out, however, that it is probably a mistake to credit dolphins with any motive of lifesaving. On the occasions when they have pushed ashore an unconscious human being, they have much more likely done it out of curiosity or for sport.
WHETHER it be bird, fish, or beast, porpoises are intrigued with anything that is alive. They are constantly after the turtles, the Ferdinands of marine life, who peacefully submit to all sorts of indignities. One young calf especially enjoyed raising a turtle to the surface with his snout and then shoving him across the tank like an aquaplane. Almost any day a young porpoise may be seen trying to turn a 300-pound sea turtle over by sticking his snout under the edge of his shell and pushing up for dear life. This is not easy and may require two porpoises working together. In another game, as the turtle swims across the oceanarium, the first porpoise swoops down from above and butts his shell with his belly. This knocks the turtle down several feet. He no sooner recovers his equilibrium than the next porpoise comes along and hits him another crack. Eventually the turtle has been butted all the way down to the floor of the tank. He is now satisfied merely to try to stand up, but as soon as he does so a porpoise knocks him flat. The turtle at last gives up by pulling his feet under his shell and the game is over.
The Marine Studios porpoises have displayed some classic variations in the art of teasing. One male calf liked to carry a piece of squid to the bottom of the tank and drop it about a foot and a half away from the entrance to a small cave inhabited by a red snapper. He would then back off and wait. In a few moments the snapper would venture out; whereupon the porpoise would rush forward and snatch the bait from under his nose. Ordinarily this game — or variations of it — follows feeding time, when the porpoises have had their fill of cold-storage blue runner and butterfish. Holding one of these in his mouth, a calf will casually abandon it near a school of small fish. As they dart forward he rushes back and scatters them in every direction. This is repeated until the frayed and shapeless butterfish disintegrates.
Witnessing such a performance, the average spectator finds it difficult to believe what he is seeing, for he is not accustomed to any display of intelligence on the part of a creature with the shape of a fish. The seal, while aquatic, looks more like a land animal and has so long been a fixture in vaudeville that his tricks are taken for granted. Actually the aquarists of the Marine Studios were just as surprised when it first became apparent to them that there are few animals as inventive as the porpoise, at least so far as play is concerned. Soon after the opening of the Studios in 1938 the biological staff began a study, which continues today, to learn if possible just how intelligent the porpoise is. This has been no easy task because intelligence, particularly as it applies to animals, is such an elusive concept.
A logical starting point, it seemed, was a study of the animal’s senses and his behavior. For a long time naturalists had thought that the eyes of the porpoise were immobile, but this has proved untrue. When he is hauled out of the water and placed on the deck of a boat his eyes warily follow the movement of his captors. His eyeballs have a rather wide range of movement and his sight, while perhaps not comparable to that of some land animals, is good both in and out of water. With his head above water a Marineland porpoise can catch fish thrown almost to the far side of the 75-foot tank.
Vision in itself, of course, is no index of intelligence, but how the animal reacts to what he sees may be one criterion. A strange object in the tanks makes little difference to the shark or angelfish but may upset the porpoises for as long as a day or two — until they can investigate and satisfy themselves that it is harmless. A large rubber ball when first dropped into the tank threw them into a panic. They schooled tightly, swimming around in wide circles at great speed until the bolder among them found it harmless. Soon they were playing with it. When the ball was removed and again dropped in weeks later they showed no fear, because it was no longer a strange object.
A spectator one day lost a golf ball in the tank. It was immediately seized, chewed, and swallowed by a turtle. In due course the long rubber windings surrounding the ball passed through the turtle and began to appear behind, trailing through the water. This unusual scene excited the porpoises. Only when a diver entered the tank and pulled the offending strands of rubber out of the turtle did their panic cease. Fear of an inanimate object indicates both perception and imagination and is the mark of a high order of mental development.
As soon as the Studios had the nucleus of a school of porpoises it became apparent that they communicate with a wide range of sounds. Different pitches and intensity of whistling, indicating emotion or excitement, are heard when they are introduced to new surroundings, when a strange object is placed in the tank, or when mother and calf are separated. There has never been a better example of communication and of hearing than when the aquarists decided to remove a mother and her calf from the rectangular to the circular tank. The level of water in the former was lowered to a point where the mother could be netted and maneuvered through the flume into the circular tank. Until the calf could be netted, the entire length of the flume separated her from her mother, whom she could not see but whose whistling she could hear through the water in the flume. Both animals remained near their respective gates until the aquarists lowered the water still further in the rectangular tank in order to catch the calf. When they did the flume went dry. Although the calf continued her whistling, there was now no water to carry the sound to her mother, who at this point abandoned her station at the gate and began to swim around the circular tank.
ALTHOUGH porpoises all look alike to the casual observer, the faces, figures, and mannerisms of the present happy, healthy school of porpoises are intimately known not only to each other but to the aquarists. They have all been given names and are the subject of as much gossip as the members of a Saturday night bridge club. “Algae had another 300,000 units of penicillin today and his lesions seem much better” is heard in the corridors around the oceanarium. “Mona is having false labor again,” and so on.
Mona has been with the Marine Studios since it reopened after the war and is one of the biggest eaters in the tank. Like a buxom, good-natured blonde with an exaggerated sense of humor, she frequently knocks the divers flat when they enter the tank with their feeding baskets. She is, at the same time, a homebody with the reputation of being a very good mother, for she has produced three live offspring in the oceanarium. Spray, her eldest daughter, the first to be born alive in captivity, is a mischief-maker who as a baby spent her time chasing red snappers and worrying her mother by rushing at sharks. Adept at games as she grew older, she was one of the first to recognize the large brushes that the aquarists fastened to the bottom of the tank for what they are: back-scratchers. A porpoise with an itchy back has only to swim upside down over the brush.
In 1953 Mona presented Spray with a sister, Mamie; in 1954 Spray presented Mona with a grandchild, Peggy; and in 1955 Mona presented Spray with a brother, Rollie, who was of course younger than his niece. By the time Mona had Mamie, Spray well understood family responsibilities and scarcely left her mother for a minute. After the baby was born they kept her between them at all times. However, at the age of four months Mamie sadly drowned by getting the inner tube stuck around her neck. Mona and Spray tried futilely to bring her back by raising her to the surface for air.
Before Mona’s grandchild, Peggy, arrived it was as if she were having the baby herself. She was Spray’s inseparable companion. Peggy was the first porpoise to be born in captivity of a mother who herself was captive-born, but Spray was inexperienced in motherhood and did not give Peggy good care. The baby did not fatten up as she should have and somehow broke her jaw. She became unable to nurse and died at the age of fifteen days.
A year later when Roilie was born to Mona, Spray again assumed the duties of big sister and performed them faithfully. The three would swim around the tank pyramid-fashion with the calf in the center. At feeding time Spray would leave to eat but Mona would not, for fear Roilie would wander off into some misfortune. The aquarists presently found that she would eat if a fish was dropped directly in her path so that she could grab it without having to turn to the right or left and divert her attention from Roilie for a moment. She rarely relaxed her vigilance day or night, and if she dropped off to sleep for a moment Spray was awake and on duty.
Porpoises, like all mammals, sleep, but it is a brief cat-nap slumber during which their eyes are rarely closed longer than a few seconds at a time. For brief periods day and night they remain nearly motionless — at least they did when there was no current in the oceanarium. With a few strokes of their tails they would rise to breathe every half-minute or so, and then sink slowly a foot or two beneath the surface. With the installation of jets, resulting in a constant current around the tank, they readily learned to sleep while swimming, rising at intervals to breathe. The various family groups — sisters, brothers, and mother — are always together at such times.
Happy, often referred to simply as “The Bull,” conducts the affairs of the porpoise colony with reserve and dignity and, if necessary, with hardhearted discipline. He is more than eight feet long and weighs a quarter of a ton; and if any of the younger males begins a flirtation he starts for him like a guided missile. They swim so fast while escaping that their skin actually wrinkles. When Happy is angry the younger porpoises scurry to their mothers and swim around the periphery of the tank. Friendly with all the females during mating season, Happy seems quite monogamous at other times, preferring the company of Susie, the laziest of the females. For several years he has always swum with her and Nellie, her daughter, during rest periods.
Susie’s son Algae, estranged from his mother when Nellie was born, is the bad boy of the oceanarium and as such has gained the affection and sympathy of the entire staff. He is the one who is covered with toothmarks from his encounters with the bull. Some of these have been frightful, with the bull literally bouncing him off the side of the tank. A tease, a mimic, and the Jack of Hearts among the females, Algae has not only mastered all of the other porpoises’ tricks but is usually at work on some unlikely versions of his own. At the time when the inner tube was popular his favorite pastime was to shove it under a sea turtle. No sooner did the turtle tip and the inner tube pop to the surface than the performance was again repeated— and again and again. For a long time Algae enjoyed startling the other porpoises and the spectators by lifting a heavy rock off the floor of the tank with his snout and letting it down with a bang. On several occasions he was observed stretched out on his back trying mightily, without success, to pry up an even larger rock. When a woman dropped her beret in the tank he swooped forward, snagged it on a flipper, and barrel-rolled proudly through the tank.
By last year Algae had become bolder in facing up to the bull. He had long been the leader of the younger males; and since he has been growing bigger every year, the Jack of Hearts gives promise that he may one day become King.
THERE had never been any reason to hope that the oceanarium would become the home of a whale. Even if he could be caught and transported, the great blue whale, weighing perhaps 150 tons and reaching a length of nearly 100 feet, would require a tank the size of a football stadium. But he would not live in captivity anyway, since he is an eater of tiny shrimp-like organisms called krill which he strains from the water with the baleen that hangs from the roof of his mouth.
The North Atlantic right whales, so named because they were the right ones to catch for sperm oil and whalebone corset stays, may reach 60 feet in length and would also require unthinkable paraphernalia to transport them. Presumably a small calf could be captured and accommodated in the oceanarium, but a whale will not bite a hook. It would be most difficult to snare a calf in the open sea when he came up to blow since the mother could be right there, and any place in the vicinity of an angry whale is no place for a small boat. Of course there are many much smaller species in the toothedwhale family. The biologists of the Marine Studios had always thought it possible that these might live in captivity—if they would eat.
At 7:15 in the morning of October 5, 1948, Frank Canova, a resident of St. Augustine, was astounded at what looked to be dozens of small whales stranded in the surf a few miles south of the city. He immediately drove to the home of Dr. Henry Kritzler, associate of Arthur McBride at the Marine Studios, and brought him to the scene. Kritzler at once recognized the helpless cetacea as blackfish or pilot whales and counted forty-eight, one dead but all the rest still alive and blowing. While scattered along the beach for a mile, most of them were clustered in two groups. The surf had so buffeted them about that it was impossible to tell which direction they had come from. Certainly they had not been there long. They were lying on their sides, as this species must when stranded, and if the tide had not been ebbing it would have quickly covered up their blowholes and they would all have perished.
Almost evenly divided as to sex, the pilot whales ranged from 7½ to nearly 20 feet in length. The sound of their breathing and retching could occasionally be heard, but otherwise the casual observer might have supposed them dead. When Kritzler touched them, all they did was to close their eyes. Like their close cousins, the porpoises, they make no attempt to struggle when immobilized. Telephoning the Studios, Kritzler asked for some manpower, a truck, a sling, and some padding. Having chosen two of the smaller whales, he and Canova busily splashed water over their skin to keep them from overheating. Whales cannot stand the heat of the sun very long. They are warmblooded; and since they have no sweat glands to carry off body heat, water must be poured over them constantly.
Upon the arrival of the truck the two young bulls were carefully lifted into the sling and carried out of the surf. Soon they were bumping over the dirt road to the Studios, their attendants sluicing water over them as they went. Upon arrival they were winched over the walls in their slings and lowered into the circular tank. Apparently none the worse for the rigors of the past few hours, they immediately started swimming among the excited porpoises. Kritzler remained for a while to observe them, and in the afternoon returned to the scene of the stranding to secure two other specimens.
The tide was now coming in. As the waves poured over the whales that were still living, they renewed their struggles, thereby digging themselves all the more firmly into the sand. One by one they drowned as the rising water covered their blowholes. Kritzler and his men managed to drag one 12-foot female into deeper water, but instead of heading for the open sea she swam shoreward and grounded herself again. A female 10½ feet long, still in relatively good condition, was selected as the third specimen for the Studios. The fourth and somewhat larger one had a very large sunburn blister on her exposed flank.
When these two were placed in the oceanarium they promptly joined the males, and the four endeavored to stay as far away from the porpoises as possible. The dolphins had also schooled and were swimming very rapidly. Although it was evident that they did not like the whales, it scarcely seemed possible that they would attack, but they did for an hour and a half in the darkness of the second night. The whales, while showing remarkable speed and agility in avoiding them, were exhausted and spent most of the next and subsequent days sleeping together at the surface with their blowholes out of water. The one with the sunburn blister was the first to die, and the larger female did not last much longer. The surviving males remained meek and very-much on the defensive, regarding the porpoises with anxious and wary eyes. On the eighth day the larger of the males died of exhaustion and hunger after the staff had attempted without success to force-feed him with a blue runner, a mullet, and a blue crab, all of which he regurgitated. None of the four had shown the slightest appetite for live or dead fish, and the Studios were not successful in obtaining squid until three had succumbed.
On the ninth day the staff at last received a small number of frozen squid from Boston. Herman, the survivor, would not eat them in the daytime but seized them eagerly when they were thrown to him in the dark. This clearly suggested that pilot whales feed chiefly at night when they can find squid at the surface of the sea. Because of the short supply, the staff restricted Herman to twenty-five pounds a day to begin with, but presently, upon the arrival of a whole carload, increased it to fortyfive. Great patience was required to make certain that he actually got the squid that were thrown to him, for the watchful porpoises would rush forward and steal them from under his nose. If a squid was dropped directly in his path, Herman actually could not see it, for the eyes of the pilot whale are located on each side of a bulbous head that does not have the power of movement. Consequently the squid had to be dropped a little to one side.
Shy at first, Herman gradually recognized the divers and feeding attendants as his friends. After a few weeks it was no longer necessary to follow him around the tank. The attendant had merely to stand on a small wooden platform over the water and throw him a squid every time he went by. He very quickly associated squid with the man on the platform and during his feeding periods would swim clockwise in ever-narrowing circles. The more times around, he realized, the greater the number of squid. Finally he ceased circling altogether. As soon as he heard the clank of the bucket or saw the uniformed attendant, he assumed a vertical position at the platform with his enormous head out of water and his tail straight down. He generally received the squid between his teeth one by one but was capable of gulping half a bucket at a time — and soon did not care whether it was night or day.
While his relationship with the porpoises was gradually improving, he was careful at the platform to take a position in which he could observe the attendant with one eye and the porpoises and turtles with the other. If a turtle came too close he would butt him out of the way. He had truly wide vision below as well as on each side and became so discriminating that even though other people were present he could spot the feeding attendant when he appeared at the top of the tank. Rolling on his side and cocking one eye upward, he would follow him to the platform. Within a few months he gained between 100 and 200 pounds and developed a noticeable paunch.
He was fed New England herring for a while, but since these appeared to cause him indigestion he was put back on squid. He continued to eat fish on his own, however, not out of preference but out of envy of the jumping porpoises. When their feeding bell rang he at first merely stayed out of ihe way. Eventually he became just as excited as the porpoises and sometimes succeeded in beating them in a race for a thrown fish. He fancied that he could jump, too. While never matching their prowess, he managed to raise himself halfway out of the water at his little feeding platform.
As soon as he conquered his inhibitions he became second to none of them at play. Upon discovering the forceful jet of water at the bottom of the tank, he thrust his enormous head directly over the nozzle and for hours enjoyed the massaging effect of the current. Like the porpoises, he would pick up any small buoyant object he could grasp, release it in the jet, and chase it. He also was on the lookout for anything dropped by spectators. On one occasion, improbable as it may seem, he paraded around the tank for an hour with the stem of a corncob pipe clenched between his teeth. Because of his flat face he was not able to do very much with the inner tube. Whenever he tried to hook it with his nose it would just slide off. He compensated for this by wearing it like a hat, or by swimming upside down on the surface with the tube hooked over a flipper. He grew very tame; and when the divers entered the tank to scrub the walls with a brush tied to a pole, Herman came up to be scrubbed too.
While some of the porpoises continued to have nothing to do with him, others let him join their games. Whenever they rushed at him with mock ferocity, Herman playfully turned over on his back and the race began. Tired out at last, he would go to sleep on the shady side of the tank or seek the company of Mona and Spray, who allowed him to swim with them. He could squeal with pleasure or excitement just like the porpoises and made other sounds that seemed to be uniquely his: a kind of smacking or kissing sound when he was resting, a loud report very much like a belch, a rasping, snoring noise, and an annoyed whining.
Things did not go well with Herman when, during the porpoises’ mating season in April six months after his introduction to the oceanarium, two bulls and a female suddenly began to bite him and to ram him into the sides of the tank one night. While capable of great speed, he could not dodge or turn as fast as they, and in order to avoid them was seen jumping clear out of the water. On the morning after the battle he was evidently in pain, for he just stayed at the surface and squealed continuously. His keepers were greatly upset, for Herman was the only one of his kind in captivity — and more than that, they were extremely fond of him. Therefore they decided to remove the offensive bull porpoises from the tank. This was accomplished under floodlights the following night after the water had been lowered to the three-foot level. Several attendants waded in and after a halfhour struggle managed to remove the three bull porpoises to the flume. Two were removed to the Inland Waterway and the third, after doing penance in the flume, was allowed to return to the tank. He seemed much chastened, for he did not renew the attack.
But on July 5, 1949, there was an even more ferocious battle. All through the night a series of shocking thuds, bumps, grunts, and groans were heard in the passageways. The night pumpman turned on the lights, but the porpoises had so stirred up the water that he could not see clearly. All he and other members of the staff could do through the night was to stand by helplessly. Herman was still alive in the morning but he was literally covered with bruises and lacerations. He would not eat and remained at the surface squealing softly. For ten days the peaceful pilot whale that would have loved to become a porpoise, if they had only let him, lingered and then he died.
An autopsy revealed a fractured jaw, but the night pumpman insists that it was Herman’s heart that was broken.