Monday, February 23, 2009

Vacation Pictures, Part 2, Elephant Seals in San Simeon

Whenever we drive up the coast, one of the places that Monique and I like to stop is at the scenic overlook just North of San Simeon that overlooks an elephant seal colony. When we drove through a few years ago, the mating season was in high gear, which meant more fornication-laden drama than even the steamiest of afternoon soap operas. Aside from seal sluttiness, I also like the fact that when we visit the elephant seals I feel downright svelte for months afterwards.

This year all seemed quiet on the mating front, but the birthing season was just wrapping up. So there were three sizes of elephant seals scattered about: pups from newborn up to two- or three-months old, which are already as big as the average seal; assorted mama seals, aka "cows"; and bull elephant seals, which get 16-feet long and weigh in at three tons. (According to the Wikipedia article on elephant seals, the biggest bull elephant seal ever measured was 22.5 feet long and weighed 11,000 pounds!)

Without the drama of mating season in full swing, it was a pretty quiet day around the colony, with the young 'uns squawking and nursing, and the old ones basking on the beach.

Monique took this picture of a newborn nuzzling its mother. Just before she snapped the shot they were rubbing flippers in just the same way that a newborn human baby reaches out with its fingers for its mother's hand:

If you kids can't be play quietly I'm going to send you to bed without any regurgitated squid:

I'm just kidding about the regurgitated squid, though I have to say that a couple of tons of regurgitated squid would probably improve the overall smell of the beach. My best advice to anybody thinking about visiting an elephant-seal colony is to try to visit when the breeze is blowing offshore. In truth, the pups nurse for up to a month on high-fat milk, and then live off the fat they produce from that for another couple of months until they are ready to go out into the ocean on their own. The mothers have already fasted. After giving birth they don't go back to the sea to eat until the pup is completely weaned

This fellow is my new role model:

More nursing. I'm sure Facebook would find this entire blog post to be horribly obscene:

It's important for the pups to learn all the important skills that are involved in being an elephant seal from their elders. Here a bull teaches a youngster the most important skill of all: lazing about on the beach.

This is what passes for an "action shot" in this series:

Tragically, some pups are born with obsessive-compulsive disorder and can only laze about in neat little rows. Please, please give from the heart to help prevent this tragedy. For just pennies a day you can stop the heartbreak of TESD (Tidy Elephant Seal Disorder):

And now, a couple photos of the stars of our show (I'm the person walking down the boardwalk in the top photo):

... and no, Monique wasn't making a fashion statement with her wool scarf and warmest winter hat. It was windy, spitting just a bit of rain, and downright chilly on the beach. The elephant seals weren't bothered in the least, since they were protected by one of the thickest layers of blubber in all the animal world. Let this be a lesson to you all: I'm not fat, I'm just built for northerly climes.

And finally, a picture that I took just for Katie the Beagle. Though she would find plenty to smell in the stench of an elephant-seal colony, there was only one item nearby that would really interest her:

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