Author: Capt. Michael Bennett
Author: Capt. Michael Bennett
If you’re like me, you love reading the story behind a story. Sometimes the most interesting, hilarious, and outrageous details are hiding there. In Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon and Other Stories, Capt. Michael Bennett reveals all that and more.
For over 20 years, Bennett traveled with whale photographer Flip Nicklin for National Geographic magazine. Bennett says, “If you appreciate the beautiful photos of whales and dolphins that appear in your books and calendars, then you’ll appreciate these engaging, often hilarious, tales of what went into the making of them.” And that’s not telling the half of it!
For example, in the second chapter, Bennett receives a request from Flip Nicklin to join him on a sailing expedition in the waters off of Sri Lanka. Okay, sounds like fun, he thinks and eagerly books his flight.
He writes, “When I exited the cab in downtown Colombo, it struck me that Sri Lanka had a quality of ‘foreignness’ to it that was unfamiliar to me. The city was incredibly busy and crowded, even in the middle of the night. Insanely busy, kicked-an-anthill busy, and colorful, odiferous, but somehow askew…Crowds of uniformly Indian looking faces surged through the streets, some with the Hindu bindi spot on the forehead, speaking languages whose sounds were totally unfamiliar to me. No Westerner was in sight. There were signs and billboards whose non-Roman letters gave me no clue to their meaning.”
In this weird parallel universe, he manages to catch a cab that drops him off in front of his hotel, a seedy-looking place in the middle of downtown. He slogs his way through the monsoon and into the lobby. As he pulls out a wad of rupees to pay the reservationist, he becomes aware of people lurking in the dark corners, staring at his money and at his obvious foreignness. But it gets worse.
The next morning, he rides a rickety bus to get to the other side of the island where he is to meet Flip for the whale watch. Only the bus, after traveling all day and into the night, starts spewing black smoke and shudders to a stop in the pitch-black night, completely broken down. All the locals get off the bus and disappear. So there he is, eerily alone in a strange land, slogging his way through the rain, duffel bag in hand, in what he hopes is the right direction of his destination. A car stops, and inside are people whose language he doesn't understand.
The rest of this chapter is riveting, and I won’t spoil what happens.
In another chapter, Capt. Bennett tells how his career began, shortly after finishing college. “My friend Carter and I, on a whim one rainy fall morning in Oregon, decided to buy these one-way plane tickets to Hawaii, a place we’d never been, but which sounded insanely attractive in a brochure we’d found.” There they camped on the beach and ate off the fruit of the land and from the sea. That adventure led to getting a job as a deckhand.
Bennett describes adventures diving, photographing, sailing, and cruising all over the world. He and his team discover some of the rarest and most interesting underwater animals, doing ground-breaking research. They learn that whales have sophisticated societies and regional accents. He and Flip go on assignment to an uninhabited island off Central America that is rumored to contain millions in lost pirate treasure.
Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon and Other Stories is the best travel-adventure memoir I’ve read. Unlike most books of this type, it gets more and more interesting as it progresses. Personally, I don’t think the title does it justice, but that’s me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes travel, adventure, whales and dolphins, or to anyone who enjoys reading fun tales told with great writing.