The unanimous judgment of the crowd of Brooklynites crowded on the Union Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal last night: somebody needs to be getting in the water to save that dolphin. Despite the cold and snow. Despite the unknown oils and toxins in the soon-to-be dredged superfund site. Just somebody, please, help the dolphin.
The crowd of kids and adults wanted to see the dolphin make it. Somebody brought along dolphin recordings and played them on mini-speakers over the water, where the 7-foot dolphin thrashed on concrete bridge pilings.
But it didn’t happen. The dolphin died after spending the day in the canal, first spotted in the morning at the entrance, then ending its life around 6 p.m. on the concrete pilings under a bridge about 1.8 miles up the dead-end canal. The Times says it was a common dolphin. That means it was most likely a short-beaked common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, making it one of about 120,000 on this side of the Atlantic.
Would-be rescuers from the Riverhead Foundation told the Times they needed special permission to rescue the marine mammal and were waiting for the 7 p.m. high tide to carry it out on its own. But Robert DiGiovanni, senior biologist at the Riverhead Foundation, told the Daily News that it was the toxic waters holding them back. “It’s not safe for us to get people in the water.” But, towards the end, the dolphin was on the footing of the bridge and people could’ve stood next to it in hip waders.
The dolphin was likely in big trouble to wander off on its own up the canal to begin with. But, once it got there, the canal itself surely didn’t help. It has been shown to have too low of oxygen levels to support life. And its pipes, pilings and concrete make it hard for anybody to get out unscathed.