Book Reviews

Book Review: Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon by Capt. Michael Bennett

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This book was reviewed for San Francisco Book Review

 

Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon recounts some of Captain Michael Bennett’s many maritime adventures. Related in a light, playful tone, it was easy to fall into these stories and feel as if I were a part of the proceedings.

 

‘Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon’ – Here our intrepid adventurer is called upon to assist Flip Nicklin, a photographer for National Geographic, as he goes to film pink freshwater dolphins in Brazil. Unable to get any underwater pictures in the river, the pair hear of two lakes also housing dolphins. One- Silver Lagoon- contained a pair of pink dolphins brought to eat the resident piranhas. Human tormenting had caused these two dolphins to begin attacking unwary swimmers. As Bennett himself points out, the behaviour of the Silver Lagoon dolphins should be strong encouragement against keeping wild animals captive, especially where they can be tormented. I love that he referenced Soylent Green.

 

‘Harbor Rats and Humpbacks’- a story relating how Bennett became a captain, met Flip, and fell in love with whales.

 

‘Shark Caper’- Working with Flip sounds quite exciting! I love the lessons Bennett says he learned about prejudice and judging people before knowing them. Black coral divers were seen as crazy rough people, but this trip included Bart, a black coral diver, who proved to be intelligent, educated, and well-read. The final efforts at attracting deep water sharks was fairly terrifying. Clearly no shark cages! Within the shark tale were some other stories that were quite amusing, especially the ‘bumper car’ incident.

 

‘Castaways on Coconut Island’ – This adventure to the island that inspired Jurassic Park’s Island Nublar was perhaps the most philosophical one. Flip and Bennett spend several days camping in Cocos Island, where Bennett was confronted with the raw impersonal destruction aspect of nature on a beach of hermit crabs devouring a carcass, balanced with the sheer wonder and beauty of nature in the form of an ethereal encounter with a fairy tern.

 

‘Isthmus Holiday’- the tale of one memorable holiday trip with Expedition where Murphy decided to tag along. If something could go wrong, it did go wrong. A wrecked train, missing luggage, flaming bananas… Chefs who tape naughty pictures to the Captain’s plate and cover it with food, to be revealed later while he’s eating, with a group of ornithologists. Other highlights included obnoxious passengers, a public dog neutering, the aborted attempt by the first mate to “civilise” the native Choco Indians by giving the women brassieres, and the AC going out. Fun times. Not to mention a culturalist’s worst nightmare.

 

‘Life in a Northern Town’- Assisting a large-scale shipline to find potential stops in far northern regions, Bennett visits a reclusive island where several homes in the village had slid off into the water thanks to thawing permafrost. After this island proved too difficult for the cruise ship’s tender boats to reach, he explores Little Diomede as another option and almost gets stranded because of the fog.

 

‘Captured in Black and White’- this was fascinating to me, reading of Michael Biggs’ orca research. I had no idea any type of whale had different accents, like humans have regional accents. I loved that they were able to reunite Springer with her family, but I wonder how she ended up so far away to begin with.
🎻🎻🎻🎻 Recommended if you enjoy travelogues, cultural interactions, and adventure memoirs.

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