A Bridge made of Paddleboards was Constructed to Address Attention to Dolphins. World Record expected.
FLENSBURG- Flensburg has several things a person can take pride in. There is the Rum Industry with six generations of distilleries that are still in business today. There is the home-grown but well-known Flensburger Beer. There is the beloved handball team SG Flensburg-Handewitt. There is the historic city center and churches. And if one looks more closely, one can take pride in the city’s bridges (click here to see the guide).
Yet the city was placed on the map recently for another feat: bridging the harbor- using boats! 🙂
While Flensburg has several yachts, clippers and the steamboat Alexandra one can awe while walking along the promenade, hundreds of spectators this past weekend (July 9th) watched paddle boaters and canoers build a bridge across the Flensburger Fjord. What was needed were 200 paddleboards lined up side-by-side and one person crossing it from side to side without falling into the icy cold water. Although only 133 paddleboards were placed across the fjord, totalling 160 meters, the attempt to cross it by one of the two colleagues was a success!
The concept was developed by Ric O’barry of the organization Dolphin Project and his colleague, marine biologist Dr. Andreas Pfaender, as a way of addressing the senseless slaughter of dolphins at Taiji Cove in Japan. Alone from September 2015 to March 2016, approximiately 2000 dolphins of various kinds have been harassed, rounded up, captured and selected either for captivity at a zoo or the slaughterhouse to be eaten. This statistic alone is alarming and sobering, and it has forced O’barry to address this issue to the public. The feat of building this bridge was for two purposes: 1. To ensure that the public knows about the event and ways to protect the dolphins and 2. To commend the City of Flensburg for their part in handling a recent event involving dolphins swimming in the fjord- a rarity that has garnered national attention. The idea of a bridge came from the history books, for a bridge was built for a limited time across the fjord in the 1880s. O’barry, who started the project in 1970, has received many appraisals from his work, yet he was also the subject of criticism by the Japanese government for his interference in the business. Despite the travel sanctions imposed on him by Tokyo, it hasn’t stopped him from addressing the issue on the international stage. While his colleague Pfaender fell into the water in his attempt to cross the bridge, O’barry succeeded and now, the word on the acknowledgement of the Guiness Book of World Records is pending.
Yet no matter the result, the project brought people, young and old together to watch this feat, and has brought the attention of protection of dolphins and other marine life in the oceans to a higher level, especially as the numbers of species has plummeted in the past 15 years to a point where the oceans will have no more fish by the end of this century. It is hoped that an international concert of laws and organizations will put a stop to the fishing before it’s too late. It is just a question of how many more campaigns like this one will be needed to ensure that the issue of fishing and protecting marine life is brought to the international table and kept there until the laws are signed and action is taken.
And now a row of Fast Facts for you to read about:
- Albeit not listed on the bridge tour guide, the English Bridge was built in 1857 in response to the railroad line reaching Flensburg and its harbor. At 257 meters, the English Bridge crossed the harbor and connected the two railroad ports on each side. It is unknown whether the bridge was a pontoon span or one made of wooden trestles. Speculations are that the bridge was built in the vicinity where the Steamboat Alexandra is located today- and it was most likely the site of the world record feat. In either case, the bridge was removed in 1883 to accomodate shipping traffic. The railroad lines on both sides have been decomissioned for many years, while the eastern branch is to be converted into a bike trail. The western branch is abandoned, but one can see the tracks along the promenade.
- Ric O’barry was a dolphin trainer, who trained dolphins for the TV series, Flipper, which ran from 1964 to 1967. The turning point in his life came in 1969, when Kathy, one of the dolphins he trained for the TV shows, died in his arms. Her death was a result of a suicide, when the dolphin drowned in the water. It was at that point where he started the Dolphin Project, which was launched on 22 April, 1970- the same day as the first Earth Day celebration- and has been a success ever since.
- Apart from the Taiji incidents, the organization, featuring O’barry, several marine biologists, politicians and volunteers have been addressing the issue of dolphin protection and whistleblowing on several dolphin slaughter activities in the Pacific, including Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of Asia. Yet the Taiji Cove area in Japan is one of the largest issues as dolphins have been victims of drive fishing (mass fishing caused by dolphins being signaled to follow the fishing boats before being captured) and mercury poisoning.
- Two dolphins made their way to Flensburg Fjord in February of this year, a rarity that was documented (click here for a summary) and filmed, including this clip. It is unknown where they originated but despite its contact with people nearby, no harm was done to them, nor any known intervention. The dolphins were first spotted on 7 February, as they escorted two fishermen towards Flensburg before disappearing. They reappeared later after a few days absence before leaving the fjord in March.
Many thanks to Bridge of the Week for the information on this project. This article is co-produced with sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, both proud supporters of this project to save and protect the dolphins. Please click on the links in the text to learn more about how you can help in the efforts.