Thursday, May 10, 2007

salty sea-dogs

One of the most charming sights in San Francisco is the colony of sea lions which gather by Pier 39 down at the front of North Beach. I knew in advance that the animals could often be spotted between the pier and Alcatraz, and so when I walked down to the seafront on my first evening in the city, I skirted round the right hand side of the pier, looking out for any rocks where they might be perched. Alas, I didn't see anything and just took a couple of rather grudging shots of the prison before my camera battery ran out.

When it did, I turned to my left and began to walk around the other side of the pier, and within moments heard a curious, discordant symphony of barks and grunts. Turning the corner, I saw the following, delightful spectacle.

I had no idea there would be so many! They don't congregate like that all year, by any means, so apart from the remarkable weather it seems I'd timed my trip particularly well. The sea lions themselves can't be done justice by photo, or even video - they were charming, fat and silly, most electing to stretch out in the sun and soak up the warmth, while a feisty few amused themselves by jumping up on the docks and ejecting others from their positions. Others merely contented themselves with honking loudly and repeatedly, often falling into time with each other.
My favourite was an enormous animal stretched out on top of several other dozing sea lions. He was easily the biggest fellow there, and set about wriggling and stretching until he had pressed all his fellow sunbathers out to the edges of his dock. Only when he had achieved a truly central position and stretched out as far as he could possibly could, did he settle.

Annoyed that my camera was down, and fearful that this was a one-off event (on this scale, at least), I returned the next evening to find the wharf almost as busy, and the sea lions possibly even louder than the night before. I noticed a lot of Americans call them sea-dogs, and they do look rather doggy, but I suspect the reference refers as much to their bark-like honk as anything - at one point a fellow animal-watcher lifted his pet dog up so that he could get a better look. Cue much barking, wriggling, and sniffing, as the animal clearly recognised a common, dog-like bond.

1 comment:

Ali P said...

Did you think they stunk? Gorgeous but VERY smelly! Glad you're home. Did you investiate whether Corns is still alive? I'm wondering whether the world of telesales has finished him off..