Risso’s Dolphin

There’s a report on our local WhatsApp group that there’s a stranded Risso’s Dolphin on one of the beaches on Westray. Our local expert can’t make it until tomorrow, so I decide to set off to find it. I’ve never been close to a Risso’s Dolphin before.

I stop in the shop in the village on the way and am asked, “Are you going to measure it?” I haven’t got a measuring tape with me. That could be a problem.

This is as close as I’ve ever been to a Risso’s Dolphin:

It’s a couple of miles walk along the coast, dodging feral cattle and angry Great Black Backed Gulls until I can see the beach. At first I can’t see the dolphin, but then I realise that’s because it’s huge and looks like an outcrop of rock.

Risso's Dolphin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’ll spare you the full photographic details for now. It’s amazing to see it so close and, not to put too fine a point on it, so fresh.

I snap off a stem of washed up kelp so it’s exactly the same length as my camera with the telephoto lens attached, and turn the stem head over heels on the sand from dolphin head to dolphin tail multiple times. I now know that this dolphin is 5 and 2/3 the length of my camera. All I have to do it measure my camera when I get home and the job’s a good one.

Back home I get my rusty old Stanley measuring tape out. The dolphin was 3.3 metres long. What an amazing creature.

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