Friday, January 28, 2011
25 years. Hard to believe.
Shortly after a wreath was dropped from a helicopter hovering off the Florida coast last weekend, part of a memorial service here for the seven Challenger astronauts, NASA cameramen filming the event recorded a remarkable moment.
A group of dolphins suddenly and unexpectedly appeared in the frame, leaping in unison from the green sea, and then disappearing just as quickly below the surface, barely 25 yards from the wreath.
For many here, the sudden appearance of the dolphins was, in a way, both chilling and reassuring. Greek and Mediterranean legend treated the dolphin as a creature of good fortune and intelligence, a talisman for voyages not only on sea and land but also for voyages into the afterlife. (In maritime legend, the dolphin is a symbol of resurrection. - C.)
When the film showing the dolphins was brought back to the Kennedy Space Center, photo technicians immediately surrounded the television monitor, playing that segment of tape over and over again, as they leaned into the screen, trying to count the number of dolphins.
There were, in fact, only four visible, at the extreme left edge of the frame. But the camera also showed another splash, just out of camera range. Nobody could ever be sure, but among space center employees last week the unofficial count concluded there were probably three other dolphins that day, splashing beside the bobbing wreath.