Dolphins are fascinating sea creatures and have a special place in human hearts. You’ll love to see these glimmering mammals if you come across them when you’re sailing with us.
“…To the Dolphin alone, beyond all other, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage” – Plutarch
Dolphins appear frequently in Greek mythology. In one myth, a dolphin saved the life of Arion of Lesbos, a famous lyre player. Arion was sailing back to Greece after a concert tour of southern Italy when the sailors on the ship plotted to kill him and take the money he had earned. Surrounded, Arion asked them to let him sing one last song. The sailors allowed this, and Arion’s music drew several dolphins to the ship. As he played, the dolphins swam alongside the ship and Arion decided to take a leap of faith and jumped overboard. One of the dolphins carried him safely all the way back to Greece.
In another story Poseidon, God of the Sea, fell passionately in love with the sea nymph, Amphitrite, when he saw her dancing. He immediately asked her to marry him but Amphitrite refused, due to his violent nature, and fled. Poseidon sent his messenger, Delphinus, king of the dolphins, to find her. He persuaded Amphitrite to marry the god, promising the match would calm Posiedon and bring more tranquillity to the seas. As a sailor I like that idea …
In both myths the dolphin earns a place among the stars as the constellation, Delphinus the Dolphin, that lies in the northern hemisphere.
Dolphins are very interesting creatures. You can find information about Greek dolphins on the VisitGreece website. One of the things I didn’t know was that they don’t sleep; they just put each of the two hemispheres of their brain to sleep in turn so that while one rests, the other continues to operate. Now that’s a useful skill!
Dolphins’ hearing and visibility are incredible while their body has a perfect aerodynamic shape. Their role as hunters is crucial for maintaining the balance in the sea ecosystem as they eat unhealthy fish, preventing infectious diseases from spreading.
Dolphins in the Greek Seas
Here are some pictures and descriptions of the types of dolphin you may see when you are sailing in Greece.The bottlenose dolphin is the one you are most likely to come across in the Aegean Sea. It’s an acrobatic and playful dolphin. If they are not hunting, they will commonly play in the bow wave of your yacht or follow or dive underneath the boat. They are quite large, up to 4m, and grey or grey-brown in colour with a paler underside. Bottlenose dolphins have a rounded forehead and a short beak.
Here in the Saronic Gulf you may also see the common dolphin (which despite its name, isn’t common at all). Common dolphins are smaller than bottlenoses, normally 1.5 – 2.5m, and very fast moving. They can swim at up to 35 knotsso quickly disappear out of sight if they are hunting. They have an ‘hourglass’ pattern on the side with cream on the flank and grey behind.
The striped dolphin is actually the most common type of dolphin. It owes its name to the distinctive black stripe along its body starting from the eye.It has a long and fairly prominent beak and its flippers are long and narrow with black stripes. You’ll see it mainly in deep water. It’s an active swimmer, that leaps out of the water frequently and is very gregarious, often seen in large groups. In the Corinth Canal, around the Sporades and Crete you can spot the smallest striped dolphin in the world – under 2m.
The Risso’s dolphin is bigger and can reach 3.5m. It is dark grey when it is born but, over the course of its life, it lightens in colour and develops linear scars all over its body. You’ll see them in deeper water, especially near Halkidiki, the northern Sporades, Kythera, and Crete. It can be identified from its large, rounded head which has no beak.
Our students often spot dolphins when sailing and your instructor will stop the yacht for you to watch them. If they are not hunting they will often come to swim alongside the boat.
… on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy