(From the Sept. 19, 2011, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—The movie “A Dolphin's Tale” is out, and I definitely have to see it, 6-year-old grandson—interested in, well, everything—in tow.
This flick has lots of appeal to me: it's an uplifting story, it's about sea life, and rubber helped save the day. It also provides a couple of those “six degrees from Kevin Bacon” moments for me.
The story behind this dramatization is about a three-month-old, injured bottlenose dolphin brought into the Clearwater, Fla., aquarium in 2005. Its tail had become tangled in a crab net, and although the folks at the aquarium saved the dolphin's life, the tail withered away.
Winter, as the dolphin is named, learned how to swim with just a stump. Then she was fitted with a custom-made silicone rubber/plastic prosthetic tail, and voila, she's back in action.
Winter was in the news when all this occurred, as was Fuji, a dolphin that underwent a similar experience in Japan. One of the aspects of Winter's story that makes it unique is that the Clearwater aquarium was heading toward oblivion. Now, thanks to the publicity generated by the resident dolphin's story and the work of about 150 volunteers, the non-profit is prospering.
My first Kevin Bacon moment is that I visited that aquarium several years back, and it did look like it was on its last legs. The second connection occurred last month.
I was diving shipwrecks off North Carolina for several days, and I hooked up Tom Paczkowski as a dive buddy. Turns out he is one of those volunteers at the aquarium.
He spends quite a bit of time diving inside the tank, working on the extensive maintenance required. So if you go to Clearwater and see some scuba diver sweeping off the coral, surrounded by sea creatures (including a couple of sharks), it could be him.
Tom said he may be one of those background people in the movie. Or end up on the cutting room floor—he doesn't care, and is just glad the aquarium is getting publicity.
He had lots of interesting tales about the dolphins at the aquarium, and Winter, the star of the show. I traded the story of Lucky, the inappropriately named turtle that I'd written about years ago. A shark bit off a fin, Goodyear stepped in to create a new one, and churned out a bunch of publicity on the feat. Unfortunately, the fin eventually fell off.
There was one other serendipitous moment in this story.
Tom and I were diving a shipwreck, a World War II victim of a U-boat, and getting up close and personal with sand tiger sharks. There were such great dive conditions, we stayed at the site for a second dive.
During our hour or so surface interval between dives, a pod of speckled dolphins came by. Most of us jumped in the water and snorkeled around, watching their amazing close-formation swimming and frolicking about.
I've had nearly 1,000 dives, all over the world, and yet this was the first time I was in the water with dolphins. They probably recognized Tom as a friend of the species. I should dive with him more often.
Noga is the editor of Rubber & Plastics News.