Sunday, April 8, 2012

Seals, surf and sex - possibly

Even on a glorious autumn day, it's not hard to imagine the horror of being on a ship bound from Melbourne to Sydney in driving, gale force winds. Watching the tiny light from the Green Cape lightstation getting closer and closer and eventually realising that a treacherous reef would inevitably be struck and that survival would be a matter of fickle luck. Terrifying.

A miserable, dark night, with mountainous seas, splintering timber and bitterly cold water. Of the 86 people the Ly-ee-Moon was carrying,  71 men, women and children perished, their graveyard not far down a peaceful bushy track.  Amongst the passengers was the mother of Australia's only saint, Mary MacKillop. With the assistance of the lightkeeper and staff, amazingly, 15 men survived.
Last week, however, small fishing boats were experiencing a gentle massage from the lazy, undulating swell. They bobbed and swayed; the fishermen oblivious to the perplexed discussion happening atop the cliffs.

"Gee, the kelp is high out of the water over there."

"Nah, that's not kelp, it's seals."

"Can't be. Seals move, that's not moving at all. Didn't realise the rocks went so far out though."

We watched the apparent kelp sway back and forth for a few minutes. Nothing much seemed to be happening, but even so it was unusual.

Out comes the camera to take a pic and enlarge it on the itty-bitty camera screen.

"Yeah, maybe you're right, it does seem to be kelp, definitely not moving. But it's odd allthesame."

Fast forward to yesterday and a closer inspection of the photos enlarged on the computer:

Definitely seals. Now, we've swum with seals a few times, we know they're curious and they're fast, and I've been spooked a few times when one has shot up from the murky depths like a rocket (or shark) and spun around to peer into my mask. Our experience is that they're cheeky and not known for loitering about. These weren't feeding, the apparent lack of movement puts paid to that idea, but could they have been mating? They were pretty static in the water which is why we thought it was kelp (we were quite a distance away) and the closeness of their flippers would suggest that.

Can anyone shed light on this behaviour for me?

Thanks to Felicitas Avendano from G+ for providing the following link that could shed light on the behaviour: They might have been "rafting" or "jughandling" - basically not doing much at all!



Jan Morrison said...

I have no idea - we see seals here in the harbour but if they hang about our boat or canoe, it is because they are curious. Might we have some fish guts for them? Seal sex? Sure - are they nicer about it than my chooks?!
Here in Nova Scotia it is snowing a blizzard. I leave tomorrow for Florida where I will visit pelicans, all sorts of other glorious birds, dolphins and manatees. later Sue dear...

sue said...

Hi Jan, have a great break and enjoy the sand between your toes, the glorious warmth and defrosting your bones. I'm sure you packed all the right books to while away some lazy hours and a camera of course.

I'd love to see a manatee.

Having been put on the right track, we're reasonably confident now the seals were "rafting" - yet no one we know has seen it or even heard of it before. Someone found us a video on youtube and it was exactly what we'd seen.

Neuse River North Carolina said...
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