By Steve Flores
According to naturalists, a "dolphin stampede" is a rare sight. Sightseers aboard Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari boat out of Dana Point in Southern California recently witnessed and videotaped this breathtaking phenomenon.
The video, taped two weeks ago, has gone viral.
Watching the video took me back to July 2009 on a family deep sea fishing trip.
We were on our annual Wave Hog camping trip in San Clemente Beach in Southern California. Each year about 80 to 100 family and friends gather in what has become an important family summer tradition. Our group is affectionately called the "Wave Hogs."
Each day of our week stay at the beach is planned with activities like a horse shoe tournament, theme dress day for dinner, surf days and deep sea fishing. We have had a carnival day for the children replete with balloon tossing, pie throwing and limbo dancing competition. And we're had a "Mardi Gras" day filled with mask making and our own New Orleans's parade through the unsuspecting campgrounds.
Our trip that summer was filled with many fun activities and family events. And although the joy of being with family and friends resonated throughout the trip, there was a touch of sadness and melancholy that some of us couldn't seem to shake.
It was our first Wave Hog trip after losing my brother Andy to cancer. We lost him in January of that year and we knew our camping trip would seem a little less festive without him.
Throughout that week, Andy memories quietly slipped into view: An unplayed guitar leaning against a trailer, cookies not yet eaten and the tornado like-atmosphere that followed Andy when he made surprise appearances at campsites to sample meals being prepared.
But the one Andy event that will stay with many Wave Hogs happened on our annual deep sea fishing trip.
On each Wave Hog trip, my brother Ralph charters a boat out of Dana Point, just north of San Clemente. We normally have 30 to 40 men, women and children who join the fun. Our task is to hopefully bring home dinner for a fish fry later that evening.
That day at sea started with the usual testosterone-filled male egos predicting who would win the pot for the largest fish caught. And invariably, the fishing would end with children winning the top prize.
As we headed back on our 30-minute return to Dana Point, the children were at their usual position at the bow of the boat being sprayed by the waves while the men enjoyed a cold beverage at the stern licking their fishing wounds.
The children called out in excitement with the sight of about 10 dolphins swimming at the bow of the boat. The small pod included an infant dolphin that with the help of the mature dolphins had no problem keeping pace with our speeding boat.
And then it happened.
First...off the starboard side of the boat. Then...off the port side. A mega pod of hundreds of dolphins appeared and were racing toward an unknown destination or away from a danger only they detected. Naturalists have speculated about this majestic phenomenon rarely seen. They have yet to determine the actual cause of a "dolphin stampede."
So let me offer mine.
I believe the dolphins sensed our sorrow at missing my brother. And somehow Andy's spirit called to them and rallied their healing powers to help us through our emotional journey to recovery. It was as if God had reached into the ocean and with the help of the dolphins, held us in his hand as we headed back to shore.
The mega pod stayed with us for about 5 minutes. Their magic complete, the dolphins swam passed us toward a destination known only to them.
The posting of Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari boat video is perfectly timed. Next week marks the fourth anniversary of my brother's passing.
The image of all those dolphins racing alongside you is unforgettable, as is their healing power and the memory of my brother's spirit.
I bet if you checked, someone on Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari boat also needed healing.
Thank you for the dolphins' bro'. We miss you.
-- Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.