Saturday, May 28, 2016


Always carry a spare. My camera took one look at the big sea lions hauled out on the rocks at Mitlenatch Island, and called it a day. But the little Sony was in my pocket, ready to take on the challenge.

Steller's sea lions. And a pair of California sea lions on the far left, bawling.

Two groups of Steller's sea lions

As we passed the first seals, far ahead we could see a group of sea lions sleeping on a rock just offshore. The rock was mostly underwater. And the tide was coming in fast. By the time we'd come parallel with the group, the lions were mostly underwater, too. But they just lay there, still sleeping, as the water rose over them. Only flippers and a few noses were visible, moving lazily if at all.

California sea lions on the last rock.

Three species of pinnipeds, (from Latin pinna "fin" and pes, pedis "foot") (Wikipedia), generally known as seals, were milling about or sleeping on the rocks and in the water below Mitlenatch.

The harbour seals are "true" seals, meaning they have no external ears, and small flippers. They grow to about 150 kilos. A group of these were sunning themselves near Camp Bay.

Sea lions are larger and have external ear flaps. Their flippers are large enough to support their weight on land, and the rear flippers rotate forward to serve as legs. The "true" seals' hind flippers are good in water, but useless on land.

Steller's sea lions are the largest of the eared seals, with males growing up to 10 feet long and weighing up to 1120 kilos, more than my car. (A Yaris)

The California sea lion is smaller, reaching to 8 feet long, and up to 350 kilos. The males have a protruding crest on their forehead, visible even at a distance.

California sea lion, male. Note the size of the flippers, and the rotation of the hind ones.

Males are much bigger than the females, up to 3 times their size.

Comparative sizes, male, female, and pup. Steller's sea lion. Wikipedia photo, by Eliezg

California sea lions bark and growl and roar; Steller's roar, grunt and groan. Their combined voices, heard over water, are an experience not to be forgotten. I took a too-short video from the bouncing dinghy, with a few seconds of the Steller's chorus.

Voices start at 0:28.

(9th in a series of 9 Mitlenatch Island posts. #1#2#3#4#5#6#7, #8.)

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