Larry and I spent a day, just the two of us, in Santa Cruz. After lunch on the wharf we walked out to the very end. We saw something I’d never seen before and I probably will never see again. There was a group of seals resting just a small distance from the pier, maybe thirty yards, so close we could see their whiskers! There were hundreds of seals, maybe even a thousand! When I commented to a local fisherman I’d never seen this many seals before he told me it was only the second time in his life he’d seen this and this was the first time he’d seen it at Santa Cruz.
This picture is not of the seals we saw. We could actually not see much blue between the ones we saw as they were packed so tightly together. The fisherman said they were migrating. He said they’d stop here to rest before continuing their journey. They were huddled closely together, actually overlapping. He said they were a “traveling rookery” or group that stays together. There were lots of babies included in the group. The bigger seals were around the outer edge and mixed in the middle of the circle, while the inner circle had a large number of babies. The babies were snuggled up against and on top of bigger seals. Some were nursing while others slept. It was easy to tell which seals were napping and which were on lookout by the way some of the seals didn’t move and some were keeping vigilant watch for predators.
Occasionally one of the larger seals on the outer edge would give out a distinct bark and quietly disappear into the water only to reappear close the center of the group for a turn to rest. It was as if the bark signaled the next seal to keep alert and take over guard duty.
The fisherman said we were watching something rarely seen in this area. He called it a “seal island.” The name surely fit. It was a floating mass of seals. I noticed the seals under the pier were barking in their usually loud fashion but there was a softer, almost soothing, constant hum of chatter from the “island.”
I think it was mostly females and babies in the island but there were a few huge seals that surely must have been males.