SEA LION IN LOVE
t was a science expedition: critter geeks collecting data in the chilly waters off Hornby Island, British Columbia. But sometimes, when you’re far from home, relationships can blossom unexpectedly.
I noticed her right away. Very cute. Dark, playful eyes. She was shy at first, but once she realized we had many shared interests, she became forward to the point of, “Whoa, babe, slow down. Let’s get to know each other.” (I’m old-school.)
First came a fin tug. I turned and there she was, long golden body executing a graceful roll. Next, a bite on my thigh. Steller sea lions are basically underwater grizzlies, with the same gnarly canines, only sea lions grow to more than twice the size. But this was just a love nibble.
My buddy and I were mobbed. They bit hoses, undid wristbands, tugged straps, twisted my video lights, and mouthed us all over.
It was wonderful, truly an amazing encounter. But my girl was extra special.
She spent the whole dive rubbing up and down my drysuit and tickling herself on my fins. When my bottom time was up, she had other plans. She charged down from the surface, barreled me over and held me down. I had 700 psi left, so I just laid back and took a shaky selfie of us as she spun around on top of me. When she went up for air, I swam for the boat.
I didn’t get there. The fourth time she pinned me, I figured that was it. We were destined to haul out together and eat herring happily ever after. During her next break for a breath, though, I made it to the anchor line.
Back on board, I told a pinniped expert about my new sea lion lady friend.
“What makes you think it was a female?” he asked.
It doesn’t matter. It was still special.