Dolphin Bubble Rings at SeaWorld

Walking around the Dolphin Cove at SeaWorld I’m constantly amused at the cute Cetaceas. They swim, jump, and playfully receive the fish visitors line up to feed them. Around the back side of the exhibit, though, is my favorite place to watch these magnificent sea animals… the Underwater Viewing Room.

It’s almost like entering a different world. The air is cool and peaceful music soothes your senses as you walk into the horseshoe-shaped area. Huge, curved walls of Plexiglas give unbroken views into the dolphin’s play pond. And play they do.

“Whoa!,” someone shouts, as a pod darts by swimming faster than you’d think possible. My little guy stares, grinning and wide-eyed as they zig and zag past him. One dolphin positions itself vertically to scratch a hard-to-reach spot on its rostrum (the protruding snout) by bobbing up and down, up and down. Every time you visit it’s exciting to see what curious things they’ll do next.

Very fortunate visitors can witness the ultimate playtime: dolphins creating, and playing with, bubble rings. If you’ve ever seen video footage of cars or aircraft being tested for aerodynamics with smoke showing the vortices swirling around areas of resistance and pressure change, then you’re at least familiar with the Bernoulli effect. Dolphins can generate a water vortex that works on the same principle. It’s a “tornado,” if you will, created by the flicking of their fin. They are able to manipulate the cylinder of water to curl in on itself making a ring. Next they blow air from their blowhole to fill the vortex with air. It’s a “hollow core doughnut” with a water vortex “dough” outside and an air ring (imagine a clear bracelet) nested inside the core.

As kids we used to throw plastic rings onto pegs for points. The dolphins use their snouts as the pegs and skewer the bubble rings they’ve made. Sometimes they toss them around a bit first like a soccer player showing off fancy footwork, only they’ve got a “quick snout” instead of quick feet!

It’s breathtaking to watch the rings appear as if by magic. Silvery heads swim through the rings or chase them like balls. “Whoa,” we hear again as the ring is shattered, tiny bubbles rising to the pool’s surface above us. You hear that a lot when you’re viewing their world, visitors peeking in on all the fun.

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