The Potomac River was once considered to be a super clean body of water in the United States. So much so that even dolphins used to live there since the 1840s. But by the 1960s, dolphins moved away in the face of bald eagles, as well as human waste and trash that had infested the waters. It appeared as though they fled in search of cleaner waters elsewhere. Considering the fact that former President Lyndon B. Johnson once called the Potomac River a "national disgrace", it's hard to blame them for doing so.
But after 50 years of hard work to clean the area and reduce pollution, it appears that dolphins have begun to breed again in the Potomac River. Researchers from Georgetown University’s Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project have spent the last four years observing dolphins moving back into the Potomac River. There were about 200 found back in 2015, whereas there's now over 1000 living in this body of water. Some have even gone as far as to swim upstream towards Washington, D.C.- within 50 miles of the aforementioned Potomac River.
Recently, however, the birth of a dolphin within the Potomac River was witnessed by the project's assistant director, Ann-Marie Jacoby. Jacoby was following a group made up of about 50 dolphins near Lewisetta, Virginia when she saw some blood float to the water's surface. She then saw a "slightly bent and wobbly fin" near an adult dolphin, leading her to believe that there was definitely a dolphin birth. Despite not capturing any underwater video footage of this encounter, Jacoby is convinced that that's exactly what happened.
"We have been trying to understand why dolphins come into the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. We see some very young calves and we see lots of mating behavior, but this is the most definitive evidence we have that they have their calves here," explained Georgetown University biologist Janet Mann, who's also the project director.
The mother dolphin has since been named Patsy Mink. She's named after the former Hawaiian Congresswoman who also co-authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act. The act in question requires equal access to educational employment and activities for women. As for the baby dolphin, it's been named after the real Patsy's daughter- Gwendolyn.
While this is clearly an exciting development, it still doesn't answer all of the researchers' questions. These include how long the dolphins have lived in the Potomac River since their return and where exactly they came from. One thing is for sure, though: it looks as though the dolphins currently in the Potomac River are here to stay.