Alf, Lord of the Dolphins

Have you heard of the Chinese river dolphin? The Guardian recently wrote a story called
On the trail of the Yangtze’s lost dolphin. By “lost” they mean “likely already polluted into extinction.” (Whoops… who could have predicted what whacky side effects repeated dumping of untreated chemical byproducts into a river could have?)

Alf with oversized binoculars

Alf on his Quixotic mission

The species may already be long gone, but that hasn’t stopped an international expedition from getting out there and trying to find it. My friend Alf actually joined said quest. It is as yet unclear whether their efforts are all in vain.

Alf, at least, got himself featured in the Guardian. Check out image 04 of the slideshow and you can see him peering through a pair of comically large binoculars. (Ladies, check out image 14 to see a Chinese fisherman with a physique rivaling Bruce Lee’s!)

Thanks to Heather for the links.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Haha, the photos 4 and 5 are like before and after photos of what happens to binoculars when exposed to cold water. Alf should be lucky he was in the former shot… makes him look more manly… well, if men are judged by the size of their binoculars.

  2. Damn, got to start lifting sturgeons to get a good body.

  3. Alf is a top not marine mammal observer. That picture shows why.

  4. Damn, they’re killing off the giant salamander as well.

  5. is he trying to spot for fish or keeping lookout for the spectral amphibious armies of Chiang Kai-shek come to liberate the Mainland?

  6. That reminds me of the Giant Catfish in Thailand´s Mekong River.

  7. There’s a nice book called “Last chance to see” by Douglas Adams (yes, the author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) where he spends some pages in 80’s China, after this Yangtze doplhin.
    Quite interesting.

  8. PR — that reminds me of an idea I had for a movie: it turns out that all the pandas that the Mainland’s been sending over to Taiwan as “friendship ambassadors” are secretly robotic killing machines waiting for the signal to be given. Once the Minister of Defense pushes the button, 团团 and 圆圆 turn into 解解 and 放放 and start kicking separatist ass. The climax comes when all of the badass robot pandas morph into the MegaPanda, an adorable 500 foot-high behemoth that snaps the bamboo-looking Taipei 101 in half and starts chewing on it.

    OK, so this could be either a sci-fi movie or a post on Forumosa. Anyway…

  9. Brendan–I’m sold. I think we can get Poagao to direct.

  10. I’m sorry that I am leaving such a frivolous comment, but after checking out the size of the binoculars I skipped straight to photograph 14 and I spot no one, fisherman or otherwise, who appears like a rival to Bruce Lee. Seriously, which one are you referring to?

  11. well the dolphins are dying more to things like electro and explosive fishing than pollution, but it dosn’t really matter why. We havn’t seen any yet but there is some hope. There actually might be some in the Qianjiang by Hangzhou. Those are real man binoculars ladies.

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