Reports of dolphins in Estonia found in several 1930s papers

Daily Postimees reported on a dolphin in Vainupea in 1937.
Daily Postimees reported on a dolphin in Vainupea in 1937. Source: Digar

News and photos of a dolphin sighting in Tallinn's Kopli Bay on Tuesday garnered significant local excitement. Browsing newspaper archives from the 1930s, however, reveals that, at the time, there were reports of dolphins in the papers in Estonia nearly every year.

Lääne Teataja, 1933: More on fish found in Virtsu

Issue 12 of Lääne Teataja includes a report of a dolphin find in Virtsu and mentions that dolphins are rare on the coast of Lääne County. The dolphin (Delphinus delphis), or springel, known in Estonian as pääsukala, is a fish of the open seas, but it is not actually all that uncommon in our waters. Dolphins can be seen in our waters often; they are only caught dead or severely injured. They end up here either as a result of storms or due to monitoring of schools of fish, as they feed on fish.

Dolphins have been found repeatedly in Lääne County. This year there have been four known incidents in which dolphins have been caught in Rikhold, Vormsi, Virtsu and, on August 8, by fishermen in Haapsalu. The last was one of the smallest, and severely injured. Dolphins are mammals, but are more similar to fish than whales. They breathe using lungs, which is why they are forced to stick their heads out of the water, which also explains dolphins' play along the water's surface.

Dolphins do not have scales or fur. They have bluish-black backs and white stomachs. Dolphins are of little economic importance as their meat is not edible. Their 1-5 centimeters of subcutaneous fat can be used to make soap.

Kaja, 1933: Dolphin calf caught by hand in Naissaar

Last Sunday offered an interesting sight when a young dolphin about 75 meters long and weighing approximately 30 pounds came ashore in Naissaar. The rare fish was so bold that a sailor caught it by hand in low waters and brought it to the dock, where it was allowed to swim in limited water for people to see. It was later returned to deeper waters. But the dolphin swam back toward the shore from there. The fish had apparently been injured somewhere, due to which it was a bit sluggish.

1933 issue of Kaja included a report on a dolphin calf. Source: Digar

Maa Hääl, 1933: Dolphin in Hullo Bay

Vormsi fisherman's rare catch.

Haapsalu. May 2. This morning, Vormsi fisherman Andres Heinthal scored a rare catch in Hullo Bay. As he went to empty his traps in the morning, he could feel a huge fish wriggling around in one of them. As he pulled the trap toward his boat, a large, blackish whale-like sea creature with a gray back appeared. He had to kill the fish in order to pull it onboard, as it put up strong resistance. As it turned out, it was a dolphin, which typically inhabits the North Sea and is rare for us. The fisherman is struggling with his catch, and doesn't know where to realize his rare catch.

Uus Eesti, 1936: Dolphin caught on Saaremaa beach

T. Randlaine, a fisherman from the Leisi Parish village of Poka, caught a rare catch around Easter when he caught a dolphin at Tuhkana Beach. The interesting and in our waters rare creature was 1 meter and 22 centimeters long. As such a "fish" has not been seen around those parts before, plenty of locals are showing up to admire the fisherman's catch.

Postimees, 1937: Dolphin caught in salmon trap

Fishermen fishing for salmon came across an unusual and in our waters rare sea creature at a beach in Vainupea. While checking a salmon trap, local fisherman Koolmann discovered that some kind of unusual creature had ended up in it. He carried the big animal to shore, where it turned out that it was a dolphin. The dolphin weighed 40 kilograms, and was a meter and a half long with a circumference of up to 70 centimeters.

Uus Eesti, 1939: Ontika wonderfish admired

A dolphin washed ashore on Ontika Beach by a storm over the weekend has ended up a center of interest for the entire beach and local residents, and plenty of local schoolchildren are also coming to see the wonderfish. The dolphin is currently under the care of its finder, border guard Konik. As the dolphin contains a lot of fish fat, some local fisherman intend to buy the dolphin from its finder and make soap or some other substance from it.

Uus Eesti reported on the sad fate of a dolphin in Estonia in 1939. Source: Digar

Uus Maa, 1939: Motor oil made from dolphin

A dolphin washed ashore in Ontika had long been an object of admiration for all the locals, and nobody knew what to do with the wonderfish. The situation has since been resolved by local fisherman Iismann, who bought the dolphin from its finder and used its rich fat to make motor oil.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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