The sea lions of Big Sur. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Like young humans, young sea lions love to play. Living on Earth’s explorer in residence, Mark Seth Lender, watched scores of the blubbery mammals diving through the crashing waves on an inaccessible beach far below the Pacific Coast Highway at Big Sur, and mused on their joy, and the threats they face.
KAISER: Sea lions are among the most intelligent – and talkative – of marine mammals. And when they are young, like us, they love to play.
DOERING: In Big Sur, our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender watched with a twinge of envy as young sea lions cavorted in the surf at, an inaccessible cove hundreds of feet below the Pacific Coast Highway.
LENDER: The sea breaks the block of the land, carving the cliff into the shape of two cupped hands, filled with the tide and emptied with the tide. And on the boulders (the size of houses) left behind, young sea lions by the score. They have come to seek the opposite of shelter, a haulout washed by the surf. They are thrown helter-skelter by waves churning above the swell. Clamber up again. Thrown off again. They swirl and swim in the eddies avoiding the respite of the narrow shore until pleasure tires them out. Forty stories below the edge they bark, laying down their playground claim. Forty stories below the edge the sea speaks for itself calling out its distant name:
[SOUNDS OF WAVES AND SEA LIONS]
And as the ear is drawn the eye is led there also. The western sun colors young sea lions to golden brown, gleaming, the water streaming from their fur they are like live brown stones. And the green-deep of the sea breaks white, crashing over them.
All this, as it has been, since the ice was beaten back ten thousand years before.
For sea lions for all its turbulence this place was a safe redoubt, unapproachable by sea or land by men carrying pointed stones. And the only thing to fear was of the sea itself and in it: Great White Shark; Orca; an error in timing and the splintering of bones. Tolerable risks. In the everyday life of every… natural… thing.
[SOUNDS OF SEA LIONS AND WAVES]
DOERING: And you’ll find Mark Seth Lender’s photos of these sea lions at our website, loe dot org
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