We’re driving to Big Sur, just minding our own business, and all of a sudden I see a sign for an Elephant Seal Rookery. I’m obsessed with animals, especially seeing them up close. So when I noticed there was a chance I was going to see an elephant seal chilling on this beach, I was star-struck. I hyperventilated as I ran to the beach. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I overheard someone say, “They just arrived after months at sea. There’s thousands of them for six miles.” Holy. Crap. I needed a Valium.
During the winter months, thousands of elephant seals come to rest and breed after their six month trip at sea. The young pups spar and play fight while the adult males fight for beach beauty dominance – the alpha status for their pretty non-proboscis lady friends. We got to see a few spar but mostly cuddle and sleep. I could’ve stayed there watching them sleep for hours like a seasoned creep. But I was pulled away – twice – and of course I came back to visit them on the way back. I couldn’t believe I had no idea about this or how perfect our timing was, but I just felt blessed to be a part of this world, connected to it just a little more. I hope I can return in February when the pups are born.
Why am I the newest yet biggest elephant seal fan club member? Their intense pilgrimage to this beach is impressive. These guys are massive in size and still sleep together like fragile puppies. After puberty, the males develop large noses which are used for mating calls and to scare off enemies. You can just picture one of these guys popping up and saying, “Umm have you seen the insane size of my nose? Do you realize how awesome I am?” And yes, yes I do.
Fun fact: So where do elephant seals sleep while out to sea? On the shore? Floating up top? Nope. Studies have shown that elephant seals sleep while diving for their food. They nap, falling side to side, as they sink to the bottom of the ocean. No wonder one out of three males will get taken by an orca. Those are incredibly sad statistics but I’m happy for these dudes. I wish I could give them all party hats, fish doggy bags, and shout, “You did it! You did it! Please don’t sleep and swim though!”
© Faith’s True Tales 2016. All original words and images by Faith Brady.