Grace and Curiosity

Tully Rohrer

March 8th, 2007

Disclaimer: This post is not artistic in any sense, but rather just a photojournalistic account of my Tuesday…

My friends and I were able to congregate all 11 staff members who were off for a kayak trip to Seal Rock, the sea lion rookery on the east end of Catalina. We went hoping for decent visibility so that we could snorkel with the sea lions. I’ve visited there numerous times before, and featured it here, here, here, and here, but never have I experienced anything like Tuesday. I was doubly excited because my friend and guest photographer Andy let me borrow his camera and underwater housing, allowing me to photograph the chaos.

When we arrived, my first surprise was that the colony there has swelled from 60+ animals on my first visit to 200 at a conservative estimate, and quite possibly closer to 300. My second surprise, much to our jubilation, was that visibility was good (for Seal Rock, that is). Upon our arrival, at least 70 animals surrounded our kayaks, following us down to where we were to pull our boats on shore. 20 or so animals stuck around to guard us, watching as we put on our wetsuits and ate some pre-adventure snacks. One individual actually took advantage of our absence once we were in the water and climbed onto the beach to investigate our kayaks and gear.

Finally, once we were in the water, we were treated to one of the most incredible hours of my life. Countless sea lions followed us around, and at any given point, 30 animals were directly below us, even when the water was only 20 feet deep. They would dart through the water (swimming 25 mph with ease), charge us, barking underwater and blowing bubbles at us, and then turn away at the very last second, right when you were sure they were going to obliterate you. We would free dive down into the teeming masses of them (image three), and they would surround us, curious as to what in the world we were doing there. As shown in the second image, it was not hard to get 20 of them in a frame at a time.

Most of all, we were impressed with their intelligence, their grace in the water (see the beautiful banked turn in the fourth image), and their playful curiosity. I had done this once before, but with no visibility, so we had no idea if there were animals around or not. With the visibility, it was nothing short of incredible, and for those of us that had never been out there before, apprehension soon became pure astonishment as we watched all of these incredible creatures in their own element.

Song of the Day: Eef Barzelay - Well
Also of Clem Snide, Eef Barzelay (yes, that’s his name) has that perfectly odd indie voice and a clever way with words, especially in this little acoustic gem. I really enjoy the lyrics here, like, “Someone will mourn for you with bitter tear-stained eyes. Will this be enough for you? You’ve got them in your spell… Because the thing you claimed to hate, you do it very well.”

Remarkable.

Sarah — March 8th, 2007

Wow. I had a really bad day, but these have made my day. I love the first one the most because the sea lion just looks so innocent and curious, and maybe it’s just me, but it looks almost as if it is smiling.

alex m — March 8th, 2007

What a great set of pictures? And such a fantastic opportunity! The eyes are wonderfully intriguing.

BobMarch 9th, 2007

What a wonderful series! How I wish I could see something like this in the water at CIMI. But your photos are the next best thing to being there.

Clyde — March 9th, 2007

wow, i really love the first one. dreamy dreamy dreamy, nice!

LaurentMarch 13th, 2007

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