Some serious considerations please.
Scuba divers life and safety is at stake here.
I know, for some of you this sounds like fun.
Please note that all the pictures might sound as Sea Lion at the distance but they were all taken with Super Wide Angle Lens – Fish Eye Lens (The lens has a 16 mm effective focal length and 111 degree angle) . Stand up, spread your arms more than right angle of 90 degrees to 110 and that is what you get in the pictures.
Pictures also do not reflect with what speed and agitation this huge animal have pounded the ground around me. You can only see the plum of silt.
Imagine 600 lb Gorilla or Grizzly Bear with the flippers bouncing agitated around you while you are alone 90 feet down in almost complete darkness with only lighter green circle far above indicating where the surface is and the only light is the video light attached to your camera. Look at the 90-80 feet down pictures again.
From Re: Think Sea Lions are cuddly critters? Think again.
Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:45 pm
"Sea lion be frontin' on me I punch it straight in the grillz."
****************************Punching in the face / grillz?!
I want to see that too and capture it on camera for others to see.
They Steller Sea Lion can fight off and scare off Great White Shark away and steal the meal from them !
That is what Scientist have surprisingly learned trying to do shark study. To their amazement their set up a bait out of fish and observed how Sea Lion fought sharks away and consumed their bait.
I cannot find the link anymore but another article, the diver photographer documents Sea Lion tormenting Great White Shark !
Yes, the GREAT WHITE SHARK ! by biting his fins ! If GREAT WHITE SHARK cannot fend off Steller Sea Lion. Are you saying you would, right ?
Here is the link to the articlehttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -tail.htmlClose dangerous encounters in our Puget Sound waters expected to increase.
These were respectively my 100 and 101 solo dives within last two years (total dives within this period 149 dives). What is the chance you may experience what I have experienced ?
Are you ready ? Did you know that divers were pushed around (by physical contact) by Sea Lions in Mukilteo Clay Ledges in the past where I dive relatively frequently ? ! I had no idea !
Check the past report blog from NWDC: “Think Sea Lions are cuddly critters? Think again.”
And in particular the account of Curt “oldsalt”:
Just a fragment“ I stuck my head up and saw a California sea lion belly whumping down the slope. Just then another hit me from behind. I spun around to look at him and was hit by a third. All together, I had five of them mobbing me like swallows on a cat.”
Complete Curt “Oldsalt” account: http://nwdiveclub.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15905#p186218What I am surprised is that there is no sufficient awareness of Steller Sea Lions even being here in Puget Sound.
The popular scuba book “Critters Creatures and Kelp – A Guide to life in Edmonds Underwater Park ”
does not even list them there ?!Lets get more serious here and try to find ways we can all contribute to make the scuba diving sport we all love safer for Everyone.
I have spent almost entire two days scouting the vast oceans of Internet to empower you and me with the knowledge for future encounters.
Please note that according to Vancouver Sun the marine mammal population has been steadily climbing in our Salish Sea waters. Article “ Marine mammals coming back to the Salish Sea”Therefore encounters like mine are expected to climb.
I will start first from solid scientific information then I will move to the anecdotal evidence and many divers reports as to what can trigger the aggressive behavior of Steller Sea Lions.What do we know about Sea Lions and Seals population, breeding and migration patterns in Puget Sound ?
I came across an outstanding study with a bit of cryptic name “Seal and Sea Lion Haulout Sites in Washington
” published 14 years ago by WA Department of Fish and Wildlife - Wildlife Science Division.
This study busted several myths divers were reporting and dismissed one of my concerns – Sea Lion mother protecting its young pup.Here is what I have learned:
1. The only species breeding and living permanently in Puget Sound at the time of the survey is Harbor Seal.
The breading ground is also referred as breeding rookeries.
So if you see anywhere pup and mother trying to protect its young it will be the Harbor Seal.
Please note that the survey acknowledges a new breeding ground established by Elephant Seals in BC waters. By size they are as large like Sea Lions and can pose similar danger.
2. Both Stellar males & females come to Puget Sound to feed for the Fall and Winter !
Therefore forget about being concern about breeding season in the Summer, they will migrate for Summer back to California and Oregon.
3. Only California Sea Lions males migrate to Puget Sound waters for the Fall and Winter.
Therefore it is very very unlikely you would ever see the female. Male have distinct bulge on their heads and are much larger. Also forget about being concern about breeding season in the Summer, they will migrate for Summer back to California and Mexico. Forget about bull aggressive behavior protecting his harem. If females are not present there is no reason to protect.
4. In Puget Sound Waters we have only 2 type of Seals and 2 types of Sea Lion present:
a) Harbor Seals
– the highest and local resident very large population breading here
b) California Sea Lions males
– coming here for the Fall and Winter relatively small population
c) Elephant Seals -
– coming here for the Fall and Winter smallest population
d) Steller (Northern) Sea Lion
– coming here for the Fall and Winter also smallest population
5. What you can learn more from the study ?
The study gives you maps with e.g. navigational buoys or logs or platforms on which Seals & Sea Lions hang out. The study also gives population count at the time of the survey.
Here is the link to the study if you want to learn more:http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00427/wdfw00427.pdfWhat I have learn from other sources that might be helpful to you (still solid science):
1. Distinguishing Elephant Seal female from Stellar Sea Lion Female.
They both can be similar in their large size but Seals do not have visible ears only Sea Lions.
Well you don't have to worry about California Sea Lion females in Puget Sound as according to the study they do not come here.
2. Harbor Seal vs others
Harbor Seals are much smaller have distinct spots pattern and are most of the time playful like dog puppies. At least I had such an amazing time with one at Salt Water State Park and interacted with for 18 minutes. You can see the pictures from that encounter from my earlier posting:viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2043&start=2625#p252435
Though keep in mind these are still wild animals and are breading here.
You already know seals do not have visible ears. Steller Sea Lions are one of the 60 species of the most dangerous animals on the Planet for Humans according to BBC.
See the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=p ... TSJ_oO2Wfs
and additional material about “Cute but deadly Steller Sea Lions”:http://scribol.com/environment/cute-but ... -sea-lionsDeaths and threads to divers from Steller Sea Lions
Well I could not find any “official” documented case of scuba diver death on internet by Steller Sea Lion but there are plenty of cases of divers being hit in the stomach or pushed around by a Steller Sea Lion.
There are plenty of accounts of being bitten in the head some to the point of bleeding some mentioned that only custom made 15mm hood prevented the Sea Lion teeth to pierce through.
Just look on Internet for Steller Sea Lion biting scuba diver in the head.
Example even from NWDC:http://nwdiveclub.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15905#p186280
I remember the NWDC blog “Why so many deaths? (DAN article)”
.What would cause an experienced diver to panic ?
Would Medical Examiner know that the diver was pushed around and that Sea Lion took his mask off ?
And conclusion would be again that the foolish diver panicked and took his mask off and case classified as unknown cause, right?Do you know what happened to the owner of the Mask with a print “Haley H2O”?
It has been several months since I found Scuba Pro Orbit black Mask with a glass cracked at Mukilteo T dock. I am still puzzled by the question why would a diver leave a mask in 60 feet of water and what force could shatter the corner of the glass ?What to do and not to do when confronted by the Sea Lion
- Anecdotal evidence based on divers reports:
1) Looking directly Sea Lion in the eyes might be considered as a challenge
Some divers report that you should not look directly Sea Lion in the eyes. It is not known if it is actually your eye contact that challenges or the reflection of fast moving Sea Lion in your scuba mask.
Do you remember ? In my case when I started looking directly at the approaching Steller Sea Lion female, she added new trick thrusting bubbles in my face. That might confirm this.
2) Strobes, optical domes, divers masks,
Sea Lions are known to bite diver strobes, lights & camera domes which all might be reflecting some light. It is not known if this is about reflection or the brightness, shine of the object
3) Flashing Strobes
One underwater photographer claimed that Sea Lions are annoyed by flashing lights and when he was around Sea Lion he was using video light instead of strobes.
4) Colorful fins
Some divers claimed that the more colorful / bright your fins the more they become target for Sea Lion to bite on them.
5) Night diving with a glow stick attached to the scuba tank
Some divers claim that they were targeted when using glow sticks and behavior stopped when they were not using it any more
6) Blowing the bubbles
While for some smaller seals blowing bubbles used to be considered as imitating divers for Sea Lions it is commonly known as act of aggression also observed between Sea Lions themselves.
7) Being passive and slow and close to the ground
This is what I did and for 25 minutes Sea Lion bounced around but did not make physical contact.
I tried to express that I am not interested in this type of horse play and that I am submissive. I was also hoping that if she decides to bite it will be my “turtle shell” scuba tanks and not my regulator hoses.
8) Protecting your head & neck
When Sea Lions play between themselves they often challenge themselves with on open jaw (who has a bigger one) and bite each other in the neck. I would recommend to move your shoulders up so your neck is not exposed.
9) Carrying extra mask
There are several incidents reported where Sea Lion took divers hood and mask off. As a precaution extra mask in a pocked might be considered. Technical Divers often do carry extra mask.
10) Extra thick hood ?
One diver claimed that all what saved him was 15 mm custom made hood.
11) Solo divers
There are several comments, also by Curt “Oldsalt” that Solo Divers (divers who dive alone) are more at risk to be used as a “straw filled doll” or “rug doll” for Sea Lions to play with.
12) Following your gut, your instinct or listening to your Guardian Angel
I have heard many accounts from many people that when something tells you to get out of the situation then slowly back out.I am still puzzled what was different on this dive versus all my previous dives at Possession Point Fingers and around.
I can think of only 2 things but it may be just pure coincidence:
a) It was a first time I started using 19 CF Yellow pony bottle on my back . Previously I used to use 6 CF pony in the black cover strapped in front of my BCD. I do not think it was any factor, most likely pure coincidence.
b) Most of the time when I dive in current sensitive area I use navy seal black turbo jet fins.
This time I was using black and blue split fins. Something about split fins or blue coloration ?
I was also wondering about US Navy mammal program that was training Sea Lions to detain Divers
. Possession Point Fingers are not far away from Whidbey Island Naval Station. That would be very unlikely that one of those Sea Lions would go “on training” on his own. Also based on Wikipedia this program was out of San Diego: quote: “The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego, has trained sea lions to detain scuba divers”.