Thursday, August 19, 2010


Following the El Torito voyages, in 1975 I was resuming my long-term studies of Poor Knights marine life when dolphins intruded as I relate at the very start of this blogstory.  At this stage I had covered most aspects of underwater exploration when slap bang into my life a creature burst that I came to see, after the ensuing 15 years of intensive research into cetacean capacities, as man’s closest brain neighbour.

With my wife Jan I set out on a self-funded investigation of cetacean capacities world-wide.  For fifteen years we maintained our own specially equipped research catamaran: R.V. Interlock.  I had five books published about our findings, one in French, and was invited to three international cetacean conferences in Washington D.C., Boston and Paris.  I put out many issues of a Project Interlock newsletter [now a website:] and wrote many periodical articles.  All this meant that besides our own findings we were able to elicit a mass of feedback material from people around the world who have had similar communicative experiences with cetaceans that corroborate and extend our own insights into their capacities.  

 In the preface of Encounters with Whales and Dolphins I wrote: ‘What are the capacities of large-brained aquatic mammals? What is the quality of their mental experiences?  Could convergent evolution have produced an awareness, in the sea, with some potential for relating to large-brained bipeds such as ourselves?  Could communication provide us with a window into ocean mind?’

Still Image bank: extensive transparencies on CD ROM.

The First Move   1981:
This documentary explores our initial Project Interlock efforts to respond to dolphins after an unexpected encounter with bottlenose during which they made communicative gestures to us: the first move.  In this film my final words were to become a major theme in our ensuing fifteen years of research: play as a window on dolphin capacities.  I called it in my book: ‘A window on cetacean mind.  “- Let’s see what other games they can play,” I say to camera.

Rampal  1986-87:  For the Doaks their meetings with a solitary common dolphin in Whitianga estuary over a period of time led to the most extraordinary sound exchanges they ever experienced with a wild  dolphin.  Video documentation is provided from three visits with professional TV crews for news items.  Some is edited news items; some is unedited footage.  The events are described in detail in the book Friends in the Sea: Solo Dolphins in NZ and Australia  1995.

Cold Water, Warm Blood :  1990
I scripted and assisted at some of the filming of this doco that explores all the marine mammal species at Kaikoura, their evolutionary history and lifestyles.  Footage of dusky dolphins at play is superb.
Opo  1991: This doco by Marmalade Films uses much historic footage and excellent re-enactments to tell the story of Opo, the solo dolphin of the mid-fifties, as narrated in Doak’s book: Encounters with Whales and Dolphins   1988.  Doak is interviewed at intervals.  
Aihe  1992: This TV  news item documents the solo dolphin Aihe at Onekaka in Golden Bay, described at length in Doak’s book: Friends in the Sea: Solo Dolphins in NZ  and Australia  1995.
Maui  1993:   Solo female dolphin at Kaikoura  well documented by Natural History /Gaumont co-production team and described at length in Doak’s book: Friends in the Sea: Solo Dolphins in NZ and Australia  1995.
Gaumont TV promo  1993 : A short presentation of  ‘best takes’ from the above shoot.
Marche de Siecle  1993:  When a translation of Doak’s first two dolphin  books, titled Wade Doak, Ambassadeur des Dauphins, was published in Paris in 1993, the writer was flown  in for the book launch.  This led to a return trip a short time later to appear on a French national tv show Marche de Siecle [March of the Century] in which  he joined a panel for a special, very long broadcast on dolphins.  In preparation Doak was taken by a French TV team to meet solo dolphins living in the south of France: Fanny at Marseille, in the midst of docklands and Dolphy at picturesque Collioure near the border with Spain.  These meetings feature in the TV show.

[Subsequently Doak was again flown to Paris to speak at a symposium on dolphins held at Versailles.  
Wade’s World: Sixty Minutes  1995:  A very well done 20 minute biographical TV item with Cameron Bennett who meets the Doaks at the Poor Knights [shows them in their dolphin suits] and then interviews him about his research on solitary dolphins with excerpts of  solo dolphin episodes from around the world including  a piece that shows Fanny  in Marseille playing teasingly with two devoted dogs.  When this item first appeared on French tv news popular pressure demanded that it be repeated, a most unusual event.

Cetacean Books:
                             Dolphin, Dolphin   1981
                             Encounters with Whales and Dolphins   1988
                            Swimming with Dolphins in New Zealand   1994
                             Friends in the Sea: Solo Dolphins in NZ & Australia   1995.
                            Wade Doak: Ambassadeur des Dauphins
                            translation by Hugo Verlomme   1993.

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