Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Fish & Invertebrate sightings and descriptions, hosted by resident NWDC ID expert Janna Nichols (nwscubamom).
ohopdiver
Aquaphile
Posts: 180
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby ohopdiver » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:44 pm

Apr 26, 2015 Possession Ferry: I was on top of the ferry when this guy came up over the side about 20 feet away. It made a beeline for me and didn't stop until we were nose to nose and it was looking into my mask. It swam off when I reached to push it away. I don't know why I thought I could or should do that. My buddy was nearby but it paid no attention to him. We are both split finners and I wear no bright colors other than a bit of chrome. I got the photo without benefit of focus or light so I made it B&W.

ImageSea Lion on Possession Ferry by ohopdiver, on Flickr

User avatar
Scubie Doo
I've Got Gills
Posts: 2781
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:13 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby Scubie Doo » Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:36 pm

Love it Spatman, made me chuckle.

User avatar
spatman
I've Got Gills
Posts: 10881
Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 7:06 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby spatman » Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:01 pm

image.jpg
image.jpg (45.65 KiB) Viewed 2077 times
Image

User avatar
Scubie Doo
I've Got Gills
Posts: 2781
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:13 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby Scubie Doo » Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:04 pm

Don't blame them. I'd be ticked if I was rudely interrupted while getting my swerve on.

User avatar
CaptnJack
I've Got Gills
Posts: 7734
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 2:29 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby CaptnJack » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:34 pm

BillZ wrote:Chill brother, the government is not training sea lions to come get you.

More than likely she was one of the half dozen or so seal lions that hang out on the Possession Point navigation buoy. The Coho salmon are running so she was probably out trying to catch a meal and got pissed off that a bubble blowing human was chasing away all the fish.


Those are only over by Bangor, not at Possession Point.
Sounder wrote:Under normal circumstances, I would never tell another man how to shave his balls... but this device should not be kept secret.

User avatar
Marek Sk
Avid Diver
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:18 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby Marek Sk » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:19 pm

Time for some update and additional learning.
This is my little project from March 2015:

Possession Point Finger Navigation Buoy use to be inhabited by California Sea Lion Males (according to WDFW study 2001). Stellar Sea Lions pushed them away and now they are protecting their new territory.
You can expect them there between the fall and spring. They are assumed to migrate out of this area for the summer to the rookeries.

I haven’t seen then in the summer which seem to confirm that.
By the way, I even recorded video of Large Steller Sea Lion mating with one of two females on that navigation buoy. One of my retired Marine Biologists friends also mentioned that underwater it is difficult to distinguish male from female Steller Sea Lion. On land you can see the think neck mane in males but underwater that neck is getting smooth making distinction difficult. So I might have been harassed by the male Steller Sea Lion protecting his harem. I also observed two Steller sea Lions patrolling the area between the PPF Navigation Buoy and the Ranger house where we usually enter the water.

Please note that Possession Point Navigation Buoy is about 250 yards or 750 feet away from the shore and my Olympus camera has only 20 * optical zoom and my Sony HDR has 30 * optical zoom therefore pictures are grainy.

If you want to see the outstanding side scan / sounding of the area, go to Dan Ritchie website. He did fabulous work also for many other e.g. Mukilteo Clay Ledges.
https://pugetsounding.smugmug.com/North ... sion-Wall/

Please click on any photo to enlarge.

Island Explorer approaching Possession Point Navigation Buoy.
I contacted them next day and they confirmed what I have seen from the shore.

P3110611-Island-explorer-3-&buoy-zoom-best.jpg


These are still shots from the Video I recorded and still shots.
Large Steller Sea Lion mating with one of two females in his harem present on the buoy.

video-cap-2-steller-sea-lions-mating-best.jpg


Male checking on his harem. Getting on the buoy.
DSC00139-3-steller-sea-lions.JPG


Male displaying its chest.
video-cap-2-steller-sea-lions-best.jpg


P3110629-2--sea-lions-on-buoy-zzom-best.jpg


Male checking on his harem. Getting on the buoy.
DSC00140-steller-sea-lion-jumping-on.JPG


TWO ADDITIONAL LEARNINGS:

I have published a lot of learnings before earlier in this chain but still here are two more I have learned since March:

1) Jan's Kocian good friend - Tom told me that there was an account when he was diving with his wife where Steller Sea Lion was behaving really aggressively. The Lion was snapping its jaw over Tom's Wife's head they had to exit the water ASAP.
True intentions of the Sea Lion are obviously unknown but it was snapping the bubbles too close to Tom's wife face to ignore this

2) I have also found on line a comment that trying to exhale very slowly & steadily may reduce Steller Lion aggression. Obviously you can only apply this if you know it before the encounter.

Well, fall is coming and I am well empowered with the knowledge to continue diving Possession Point Fingers.



.
Do "Right Things" rather than "things right".
Conquer your fears & you will be blessed with inner peace & serenity.


I feed "Good Wolf", learn from Eagles, smell Rose Anemones & dance with Sea Stars.
I respect ALL Creatures & Diversity.

User avatar
Joshua Smith
I've Got Gills
Posts: 10228
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:32 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Joshua Smith » Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:41 am

I got thumped in the back of the head by a cabezon one time.
Maritime Documentation Society

"To venture into the terrible loneliness, one must have something greater than greed. Love. One needs love for life, for intrigue, for mystery."

User avatar
Nwbrewer
I've Got Gills
Posts: 4490
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2006 10:59 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Nwbrewer » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:28 pm

Marek Sk wrote:

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 think you've figured out the root cause of your problems. Even sea lions get annoyed by splitfin divers silting out their dive sites. Switch back to your jets and you'll be safe from the sea lion silt prevention patrol from now on.

:taco: :taco: :taco: :taco: :taco: :taco: :taco:
"Screw "annual" service,... I get them serviced when they break." - CaptnJack (paraphrased)


"you do realize you're supposed to mix the :koolaid: with water and drink it, not snort the powder directly from the packet, right? :smt064 " - Spatman

User avatar
spatman
I've Got Gills
Posts: 10881
Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 7:06 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby spatman » Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:12 am

What an entertaining read. Can't wait to hear about the next time you get pinched by a crab.
Image

User avatar
oldsalt
Pelagic
Posts: 906
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:02 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby oldsalt » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:26 am

Marek: These weren't Navy sea lions. I have had frightening experiences with Steller Sea Lions diving, kayaking, and even in one of my sailboats (Hey, it was a small boat.). I suspect that they are accustomed to being the biggest thing on the block and don't treat we humans with the proper respect.
-Curt
Happy to be alive.

User avatar
BillZ
Aquanaut
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 12:23 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby BillZ » Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:09 am

Marek Sk wrote: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”.


Chill brother, the government is not training sea lions to come get you.

More than likely she was one of the half dozen or so seal lions that hang out on the Possession Point navigation buoy. The Coho salmon are running so she was probably out trying to catch a meal and got pissed off that a bubble blowing human was chasing away all the fish.

User avatar
GearHead
Submariner
Posts: 501
Joined: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:32 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby GearHead » Fri Oct 24, 2014 11:28 pm

You're way overthinking this.

This was obviously a scary experience for you, but you're trying to turn it into something beyond that. Just avoid the places up in Canada where the Sea Lions hang out if you don't like them.

User avatar
Marek Sk
Avid Diver
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:18 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Marek Sk » Fri Oct 24, 2014 10:41 pm

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
Norris wrote:
"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 article
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -tail.html

Close 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 fragmentI 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#p186218

What 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.pdf

What 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-lions

Deaths 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”.
Last edited by Marek Sk on Fri Oct 24, 2014 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Do "Right Things" rather than "things right".
Conquer your fears & you will be blessed with inner peace & serenity.


I feed "Good Wolf", learn from Eagles, smell Rose Anemones & dance with Sea Stars.
I respect ALL Creatures & Diversity.

Diver_Dave
I've Got Gills
Posts: 1210
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 4:40 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Diver_Dave » Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:03 pm

That's some good stuff all she wants to do is play..
D.D.
Sitka,Alaska
Finding things under water....

User avatar
Norris
I've Got Gills
Posts: 4547
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 2:31 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Norris » Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:31 am

Fun read
**Pinch it, don't stick your finger through. You're just pinching a bigger hole.
CAPTNJACK - 2012**

User avatar
Tom Nic
I've Got Gills
Posts: 9230
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:26 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Tom Nic » Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:02 am

Let the stories begin.

It's kind of like ghost stories around the campfire, only these ghosts are real.

I have heard enough stories around tailgates and on the sterns of dive boats to give me a very healthy respect for these creatures.

At the same time, I am not fearful of Orcas in the water, my logic being that "if they want me they can get me", and short of staying out of the water there isn't anything I can do about that.

It's probably the same with the sea lions.

All that being said, I don't think I'd jump off a boat to snorkel "with" orcas that I knew to be actively hunting, and if there is a colony of sea lions where harem herding is happening or pups that very very young are present I might think twice.

Being shoved into the bottom by a "playful" smallish female in Sitka harbor got my attention.

But let the stories continue!
More Pics Than You Have Time To Look AT
"Anyone who thinks this place is over moderated is bat-crazy anarchist." -Ben, Airsix
"Warning: No dive masters are going to be there, Just a bunch of old fat guys taking pictures of fish." -Bassman

User avatar
Jan K
I've Got Gills
Posts: 3887
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 5:02 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Jan K » Thu Oct 23, 2014 8:40 am

Marek, great post and pictures to document the encounter.
Few years back we were planning to dive near Baby Island in Saratoga Passage. After we anchored the boat and were suiting up, group of Steller sea lions surrounded our boat and their behavior was so obviously threatening that we decided to go diving to Camano Island instead. Normally, we would welcome their presence in water with us, but something told us they were not playful. It is hard to tell, we definitely lack in the seal language department to understand what their intention is.
After all, there are documented cases where Stellers did bite divers...

User avatar
LCF
I've Got Gills
Posts: 5697
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 5:05 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby LCF » Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:58 am

I think it is very difficult for us to know what is aggressive behavior from these guys, and what is playful and curious.

Years ago, Peter and I did a dive on Maui where we had a lot of interaction with a monk seal. The animal appeared to be very specifically interested in us, including getting down on the bottom and coming directly toward me. I THOUGHT the behavior appeared friendly, but I realized that I know a lot about the body language of terrestrial animals, and when they are being inviting and when they are showing aggression or fear. I don't speak seal or sea lion at all; I have no idea what their behaviors mean. I know that blowing bubbles in your face is supposed to be a warding or driving-off behavior, but beyond that, I know nothing.

Large wild animals are intimidating, and I think they make us aware of what comparatively weak and vulnerable animals WE are. Without our tools and weapons, we're pretty easy targets.
"Sometimes, when your world is going sideways, the second best thing to everything working out right, is knowing you are loved..." ljjames

ohopdiver
Aquaphile
Posts: 180
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby ohopdiver » Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:53 am

Amazing story and photos. You might be looking over your shoulder for a while. I've been diving Possession Fingers since the 70's and never saw a sea lion there. My experience with several Sea Lions at Tatoosh with repeated fly-by's and straight approaches seem more like curiosity compared to your girl's scary behavior.

User avatar
Linedog
I've Got Gills
Posts: 1268
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:53 am

Re: Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession P

Postby Linedog » Thu Oct 23, 2014 7:23 am

Maybe she thought you were cute, :rofl:
Edit, Great story however, I had heard the blowing bubbles trick before.
Last edited by Linedog on Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Pop tarts and gravy,
It's what's for breakfast.

User avatar
Marek Sk
Avid Diver
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:18 pm

Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion at Possession Pt Pk

Postby Marek Sk » Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:02 am

Bizarre encounters with Steller Sea Lion female at Possession Point Fingers south end of Whidbey Island.

I have made two dives on Tuesday 10/21/14 at Possession Point Fingers and had very strange encounter with Steller Sea Lion female.
At the end of the first dive in a bit silted surface water I noticed that huge body going around me. I am ~200 pound 6 feet tall but she was much much bigger than me. Probably 9 feet long.
I shot couple of pictures and did not think much about it.
I am posting only one of four due to poor visibility at the surface. Better pictures will come next from the second dive.
Make sure you click on each picture once to enlarge and second time for max resolution.
PICT9595-steller-sealion-a.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female in shallows with bad vis


As I was using 32 % Nitrox my plan was to go again to 90 feet depth and slowly ascent from there taking pictures. I had surface interval of about 1h 45 min.
I started second dive, as soon as I reached 90 feet depth (about 15 minutes into the dive) I was harassed and intimidated by this huge animal.
PICT6579-steller-sealion-b.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female in depts 90-80 feet

PICT6580-steller-sealion-perspective-with-rockfish-size.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female in depts next to Black Rockfish that are 1.5 to 2 feet in length

PICT6583-steller-sealion-c.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female in depths 90-80 feet


What I find really bizarre, she was either hitting with her body the shelves around me with violent moves or just flushing the walls with water. The effect was stirring up the silt around me.
PICT6591-steller-sealion-stiring-the-silt-deep.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female stiring silt at depths 90-80 feet

PICT6593-steller-sealion-frontal-face.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female frontal at depths 90-80 feet

PICT6614-steller-sealion-d.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female


OK I read many books and only have heard about Steller Sea Lion friendly curiosity, nothing like this.
It was clear that she did not want me to be there. I thought, OK maybe she has a pup in the area and motherly instinct tells her to protect. I tried to move as slowly as possible and be not threatening to calm her down. I also tried to move through the trenches and crevices to NE part of Possession Point Fingers to where I originated the dive.
The Steller Sea Lion continued to bounce around me and stirring up the silt. I could also feel the pressure of water wave though she did not make any direct physical contact with me that I am aware of.

There was a moment during the dive I noticed and picked up an old rusty rod. I though first if this will escalate to physical contact then I can try to keep the Sealion away with it but then I thought if it is motherly instinct I would not want to harm the mother.
I dropped the metal rod down and started thinking that one of the 10 commandments says: “Thy shall not call the name of thy Lord / God in vain.”
O Lord, am I still safe or shall I ask for your help ? Or, this is the time you want me to end my earthly endeavor?

When I reached 20 feet depth I paused for a while without moving much.
I thought to myself now I am much closer to the surface with more natural light, I should be safer now.
However she decided to add a new intimidating tactic to the repertoire.
I looked at her when she was coming towards me with a great speed she thrashed the bubbles right into my face (over the camera) and immediately went up with such an agility that my camera only captured the following picture of her back flippers and the trace of bubbles dispersed by her body.
PICT6657-steller-sealion-after-thrusting-bubles-in-my-face.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female after thrusting bubbles in my face leaving dispersed bubbles behind

PICT6652-steller-sealion-stiring-the-silt-shallow.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female stirring up the silt around me

PICT6651-steller-sealion-surfacing-after-stiring-up-the-silt.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female surfacing after stirring up the silt

PICT6654-steller-sealion-perspective-with-rough-piddock-clams.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female perspective with rough piddock clams

PICT6659-steller-sealion-best.JPG
Steller Sea Lion female in the shallow


After being intimidated continuously for 25 minutes which in my mind lasted entire eternity I had enough and finished the dive after only 40 minutes (I usually dive on 130 CF tanks and stay down between 1h to 1.5h depending on depth).
I finished the dive with more than 1000 PSI.

Later I walk entire beach as far as I could both ways as it was relatively high tide and could not see any signs of any Sea Lions nor pups neither on the water surface nor on shore.

I was left with several impressions:
1) We are so clumsy and vulnerable in the water
2) Our frontal vision is no match for peripheral vision of true Marine Creatures
I know she could have easily harm me if she wanted.
She could come from any direction unnoticed.
It was such humbling experience.


My heart was pumping heavily and I do not remember when last time I had such a lousy SAC rate.

I talked to Jan K who dives Possession Point Fingers much more frequently than me and who inspired me to dive many Magical Whidbey Island Sites. I have learned and continue to learn so much from him. :notworthy:
He was diving Possession Point Fingers just one day before and said that he never encountered anything similar. Most of his encounters were that Sea Lion just passed by so quickly not even allowing him to take a picture

I also was left with such a burning desire to understand why she acted like this ?
What I or any other Diver who may face similar encounter in the future can do better?

Have you ever encounter anything similar ?

Final note:
I went back to the book I have "Beneath Cold Seas" by David Hall on page 108 he describes his encounters with Stellar Sea Lions in British Columbia.
I started laughing reading it. Just to quote a fragment:
"Safely back on Mamro (dive charter boat) I finally had time to reflect. I had been diving for more than 30 years and had photographed many large and potentially dangerous animals. Yet never before had I voluntarily left the water during highly productive shoot, with loaded camera and plenty of air in my tank".

O gosh, I exactly know what David Hall felt !
I just felt so uncomfortable to stay any longer in the water being continuously harassed by the Sea Lion for 25 long minutes and a fear that it may escalate to some physical contact which could easily end up fatal for me.
One difference though he was surrounded by friendly crowd of Steller Sea Lion females trying to investigate a newcomer. Those were accustomed to frequent Scuba diver visitors.
I was harassed by aggressively behaving single female Steller Sea Lion probably not accustomed to any scuba divers before. Maybe that is why such a bizarre behavior. I wonder if we ever will find the answer.

All pictures taken with SeaLife DC1400 Camera. Sea Dragon 2000 video light. Two SL961 Digital Pro Flashes on extended arms. SL975 Underwater Fisheye Wide Angle Lens.
Do "Right Things" rather than "things right".
Conquer your fears & you will be blessed with inner peace & serenity.


I feed "Good Wolf", learn from Eagles, smell Rose Anemones & dance with Sea Stars.
I respect ALL Creatures & Diversity.


Return to “Critter Watchers - PNW Marine Life”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron