One of the questions we are frequently asked about strand feeding is “how long have dolphins been doing it”.   Our own files and many research papers and other narratives clearly document strand feeding over the last few decades.   The oldest specific evidence we had previously seen was a 1971 paper in the Journal of Marine Mammology which described 1965 observations by a University of Georgia Marine Institute researcher.   Recently we were told about an even earlier, nineteenth century reference to strand feeding in Georgia.


Frances (Fanny) Anne Kimball was a famous English actress in the early 1830’s.   She retired in 1834 to marry Pierce Butler who owned the plantation on Butlers Island in Georgia.   She lived there for two years in 1838 and 1839 and wrote the Journal of a Residence of a Georgian Plantation.   In her Journal, Fanny writes, “Jack told me of his own fishing experience that he had more than once caught those most excellent creatures, Altamaha shad, by the fish themselves leaping out of the water and landing, as Jack expressed it, to escape from the porpoises”.   Clearly Jack was making the common mistake of confusing porpoises and dolphins as porpoises are not known to strand feed and are uncommon in that area.   While this anecdotal evidence may not meet scientific research standards, bottlenose dolphins have likely been strand feeding for far longer than a few decades.


Click here for more information about Fanny Kemble and her life in the antebellum Lowcountry