Wednesday, July 21, 2010

swimming with a seal

This seal was hanging around because a tourist-fisherman fed him baitfish, which you're not supposed to do. It's not the smartest idea to swim with a baby seal - kind of like playing with a bear cub. If its mother finds you, expect to get torn apart. That being said...

I swam with a baby seal!

People were onshore keeping a good eye out for the mother. The seal came right up to me and we made squealing noises back and forth. I guess he was asking for more fish.

He slid under the water to get a better look at me, I did the same. We did that for a few minutes. Then he dove and swam slowly between the rocks along the shore. I dove and followed him, until he disappeared ahead of me.

Later, he resurfaced right behind me and squealed again. I held out my arms like you would if you were holding a baby and he floated into my arms. I stroked his smooth,soft skin a bit. Then we spent more time floating around each other. He'd come in for a little bit of contact. When I swam, he'd brush against my legs occasionally. I wonder if that's how they tell their mothers "I'm here".

It's probably not a good idea to get wildlife too used to human presence, for all kinds of reasons, so I left after a while.

Despite all those practical facts and warnings, it's an amazing thing when two species can come together for a moment and look into each others eyes and want to understand each other. Maybe these occasional little connections are just as important as keeping a respectful distance. It is a beautiful reminder that we are not above the rest of the animal kingdom - we're just as much part of it as plankton, spruce trees, jellyfish and bears.

It's difficult to not get preachy about this. Suffice it to say I have very strong feelings about the furry / fishy / plant-y / rocky members of our communities.

So I got my wish and swam with a seal, and it is something I'll never forget.

(I didn't have my snorkeling mask, but I was opening my eyes underwater anyways, and lost both contact lenses. I just put in new ones that morning... dammit.)

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