On Monday 19 July 2011, Mark Caney gave a presentation on his debut novel 'Dolphin Way' at Ocean Leisure, London.
It was a sultry summer night, and a handpicked audience gathered at the Embankment based dive shop to hear Mark speak about the intelligence and culture of dolphins, and how this led to him writing the novel.
When I was handed a pre-publication script, I was afraid it would be too saccharine. I certainly underestimated Mark Caney. I must admit that Dolphin Way certainly blindsided me, and it has joined the list of certain books and films that I remember for their unexpectedness, such as Gattaca.
I read the script on a transatlantic flight, and remember being very glad it was dark on the plane because the prose made me cry. (I hadn't expected that). Over the course of the flight, I enjoyed the humour and appreciated the non-preachy but vital messages about the environment, and the Dolphins culture. Mark's extensive knowledge and first-hand experience of our underwater world came to life. I could see the pictures of this very intelligent species in my head, and still believe to this day that James Cameron would do a decent job telling the story of Dolphin Way in the style of Avatar underwater.
Mark Caney has been lucky enough to spend a lot of time around dolphins. "I have worked in the diving industry for over forty years and my favourite hobby is sailing. It always seems to me that dolphins have a fairly utopian life; they spend all day playing, eating and making love. They have an intelligence that probably rivals our own, but they don’t use it to manipulate their environment as we do.
Probably my most special close encounter with a dolphin was in Egypt. I'd heard that a lone dolphin was regularly seen in a particular bay in the Red Sea. I drove there overland with some friends and it was a hard place to reach, so by the time we arrived it was late at night. It was summertime though; the sea was calm, and a full moon was rising over the water. So, I went out in snorkelling gear, and there she was. At first she was wary, and circled around me, but then she became more confident and eventually came up to touch me. After a while, she let me stroke her and hold her; she obviously liked it and didn’t seem to want me to leave. We spent hours playing together that night, and with the moon shining through the calm sea onto the white sandy seabed, it was easy to see. I looked into the dolphin’s eyes that night and clearly saw another intelligence looking back at me. We could not talk, but there was a mutual recognition of another sentient being and a shared affection."
A positive COVID-19 project
Mark Caney primarily works behind the scenes as the PADI representative on some very key committees, ie the British Diving Safety Group, the European Underwater Federation and the World Recreational Scuba Training Council. Like many of us, he has had spare recreational time on his hands during the COVID-19 crisis. He used his time to record 'Dolphin Way' and it is now available as an audiobook.