Chapter 14: Freddy the Final Word

Autumn 1998

In the autumn of 1998 I heard from John Hunt, he had been on the Funghie trip a decade before. He had been over to Norway and swam with a wild dolphin known as "Flipper". He thought the behaviour of Flipper was similar to that of Freddy and they might be one and the same dolphin. In fact he had an article published in International Dolphin Watch's magazine to this effect, claiming that when Freddy was absent from Amble, he'd been swimming over to Norway. I was sceptical of his claim for a variety of reasons. Freddy never went missing for days and by 1998 he had been presumed dead by me for over six years. It would be a miracle if this Norwegian "Flipper" was Freddy. Still, I had to check it out. One think was for sure, the name the Amble locals had given a dolphin was more imaginative than the Norwegians!

In November I caught the ferry from Newcastle to Haugesund with Heidi Oravasaari. I had met Heidi in Finland during the campaign to close the dolphinarium. It was her dream to swim with a wild dolphin and at this time she was over in the north-east of England studying and so I invited her to join me on the trip to Norway. We arranged to meet a friend of John Hunt's, a filmmaker called Karl, who had an interest in dolphins. We found out from Karl that the dolphin favoured a few different locations and we'd have to scout around to find him. However at the first location where we tried, a small harbour, he was there. As it was nearly dark, we decided to come back early the following day. Karl was working, so we got the bus to the harbour and sure enough Flipper was in situ. We needed somewhere to change, so Heidi went to the nearby school and asked. I figured they would more likely give permission to a Nordic woman than me!

I clambered into the water in slight trepidation. Could this be Freddy, and if it were would he recognise an old friend? I was a few feet away from the dolphin and instinctively knew that neither of us recognised the other, a quick glance with my face mask and snorkel on confirmed this was not Freddy, there was no distinctive nick on his right pectoral fin, the one caused by a snag on a fishing line which had cut into his skin. I wasn't in the water for long, half an hour at most, and the dolphin wasn't that interested in me, perhaps he'd sensed my feeling of disappointment. Heidi got in as I came out and the dolphin only appeared slightly more interested in her than me, before swimming off. This was Heidi's first time in the water and although the interaction hadn't been for long, she was emotional. I was too, but for a different reason, this was another fabulous dolphin who was giving a privilege to humans, to meet him on his own terms, but it wasn't Freddy. The following day the dolphin had moved a few miles away and we found him at Skudeshaven. I was really pleased to see a good dolphin information board at Skudeshaven, with common sense advise helping to protect the dolphin, which was in stark contrast to the situation at Amble. Heidi was first, eager to be in the sea. By the time I got changed and jumped in, she was having a more intimate swim with "Flipper" than her first encounter.

I just watched it through my mask and snorkel. Heidi was even more emotional than the previous day when the time came to leave the sea. The next day was our last as we had a ferry crossing back to Newcastle in late afternoon. We caught the bus to Skudeshaven, but Flipper wasn't around. We sat for a good hour. Heidi was becoming downhearted, that she might have to leave without seeing the dolphin. We gambled and took the bus back to the harbour where we had first seen the dolphin and it paid off, there he was. We had a little over an hour before the bus to Haugesund came, I decided to just photograph Heidi and the dolphin. They had a really beautiful time together and I had to keep telling Heidi, that she should get out, if we were to make the bus and ferry. After a few goodbyes she eventually did. This, her last swim, had been her best and she was on a big high. I had found with my trips to see Freddy that invariably the best swim was the last one, when something new might happen, as if the dolphin knew you were temporarily leaving and was enticing you to return quickly. The trip to visit Flipper was great, it was conclusive, he wasn't Freddy but Heidi had enjoyed a fabulous gift. I also knew that if I lived in Norway, I'd be back to see Flipper.

After a few goodbyes she eventually did. This, her last swim, had been her best and she was on a big high. I had found with my trips to see Freddy that invariably the best swim was the last one, when something new might happen, as if the dolphin knew you were temporarily leaving and was enticing you to return quickly. The trip to visit Flipper was great, it was conclusive, he wasn't Freddy but Heidi had enjoyed a fabulous gift. I also knew that if I lived in Norway, I'd be back to see Flipper.

The trips to Seattle and San Francisco had ended in highs. This one didn't. I had taken precious video film of Freddy and myself to Norway to show Karl. Because we were in a rush to catch the ferry back to England, I left the videos at his home. When I got back to Dorset I asked him to post me the videos, he did but put 38 not 3B as the house address, they were returned back to him and then he didn't re-post them. Not only did I not find Freddy, I lost him too.

Touched by a dolphin

A grey torpedo approaches
Grinning
Primed to explode
A quarter ton blubber bully boy sometimes
Sometimes
Looking at you, looking at me
Through that deep brown eye
I wonder what are your dreams?
A knowing eye filled with joy and wildness
A touch of dolphin, rubs me,
If only for awhile