Sea lion friend or foe?

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stphnmartin
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Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by stphnmartin » Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:38 pm

On Sunday JPA, myself and another dive buddy ventured out to Blakely Rock. Currents were predicted to be very nice and we left early to dive China wall and then the east reef (Shangri-La) at slack. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was just coming up as we departed the Alki boat launch. A quick 10 minute ride and we approached the rock and anchored (albeit not without some issues).

The three of us geared up and dropped down the anchor line to find the anchor just at the top of the wall which wasn't our intention. We began proceeding east along the base of the wall and there was actually a slight westward current. JPA was in front, I followed and our other buddy brought up the rear. I felt something pulling on my flipper and turned around to see what my buddy wanted but I only saw his light in the distance.

I was about to video a rhino crab when JPA flashed me. He had found a small wolf eel. While I was deciding whether or not to take video, JPA flashed me again. I look at him and he points in one direction. Now I know what was pulling on my flippers! A large sea lion was circling us. It's the largest one I've been up close in the water with. We usually get buzzed by them on the rock, but this one was persistent.

At one point, the sea lion perched on the top of the wall and just looked at us. It seemed mesmerized by the lights. Then it lifted off and the fun began! He began to buzz by us acrobatically and very close. He'd pause, head fake and bluff charge. It was an impressive show! Then it started to get a bit more intense. He took a liking to JPA, swam up face to face, then bit him a couple times on the head! Then he swam towards me and I could tell wanted to do something similar but I had my camera and light array as a defense.

It was most likely the case it was just playing with us. But, with its size and increasing aggressiveness, we decided getting back on the boat would be wise. It followed us up the water column as we did a free ascent. It would breach the surface above us and come diving back down. We surfaced and it came up just a bit in front of us and showed us its teeth. Or was it a smile?

Back on the boat we saw it pop up a few more times. We decided to abandon the east reef and call it after one exciting encounter.

What has been your experience with large sea lions? Is it best to run away when they're behaving in such a manner? Looking at the video now, I'm wishing I'd have hung out with it longer!

Here's the video evidence!

phpBB [video]
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ScubaJess
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by ScubaJess » Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:14 pm

Dude!!!!!! Awesome video! It was scary! I don't think i'd like that guy coming right at my face like that. You guys are brave! Beautiful film job!!! :)
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by ohopdiver » Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:18 pm

Any damage to his head?
I was on top of the Possession Ferry last summer when a sea lion made a beeline for me from about 20 feet away and didn't stop till his nose was inches from my mask. It seemed like it looked into my eyes for an uncomfortably long time. I foolishly reached to push it away with an empty hand but it left before I touched it. I was so stunned I was only able to get a poor side photo as it swam away.

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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by jpa » Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:34 pm

I felt it but it didn't hurt. I was fairly pissed but I didn't make any aggressive moves. I didn't want to get drug around by a large mammal.

This is one time where I wish I had a huge camera rig to shelter behind. I got picked on because a single Sola isn't very intimidating.

He gave me the stare and lunge multiple times. By the time he smacked me I was done and ready to leave.

And I need a new hood; too much face exposed by over-trimming.

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Scubie Doo
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by Scubie Doo » Wed Feb 10, 2016 7:36 am

Awesome video!!! That is one massive beast. I think it was just playing, but just watching made me anxious :) great job keeping your cool.

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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by Grateful Diver » Wed Feb 10, 2016 7:59 am

Dude, you so need to head up to Hornby Island. Just spent three days playing with hordes of sea lions ... and they're incredibly interactive. It's like playing with a pack of 600 lb puppies.

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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by stphnmartin » Wed Feb 10, 2016 8:52 am

On the one hand I'm glad I didn't have to travel so far for an authentic sea lion experience. But, on the other hand the viz does look awesome at Hornby Island!

So, I take it the general consensus is sea lions play rough but are otherwise safe to hang out with?
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CaptnJack
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by CaptnJack » Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:37 am

Nice video! I'm jealous he hung out with you so long and repeatedly. You realize he was going to the surface to breathe?
stphnmartin wrote:So, I take it the general consensus is sea lions play rough but are otherwise safe to hang out with?


As a general rule yes. Very rarely someone gets bit when they get hyper excited, but even then its not life threatening (more suit damage than anything else). If they are "barking" in your face its time to leave though, that is their most aggressive "get outa my space" move.
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by BillZ » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:02 am

It's best to stay as far away from the sea lions as possible and to exit the water immediately upon seeing one.

Haven't you heard? They are training spec ops sea lions out at Naval Base Kitsap.

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=23569&hilit=sea+lion+navy



Edit:
PS - Great video! I really like the drone footage and how you sequenced your shots.

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oldsalt
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by oldsalt » Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:15 pm

I've posted on this before. I've encountered sea lions at Race Rocks, Hornby Island, Snake Island (Nanaimo), EUP, Mukilteo, Possession Point Ferry, and Kayak Point, just to name a few. I will say not all sea lions are created equal. For the most part, they are curious and playful. Stellar Sea Lions I found to be most aggressive. California sea lions in groups can be aggressive. Solo divers are at more risk than a buddy team. A dive guide/instructor told me that they can discern the difference between men and women and they tend to target female divers. I have had a bad experience. During my navy career I worked alongside the mammal program and I have no concern that anyone is going to be subject to an escaped or rogue mammal.

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Tom Nic
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Feb 14, 2016 3:45 pm

That Sea Lion did not look to be playing.

It looked and acted aggressive and challenging.

All due respect to Bob and the folks who dive Hornby, getting played with by a bunch of 600 lb underwater pooches does not sound fun.

Although the pics I saw from Bob did not have the demeanor of the lone one you encountered.
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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by Randar » Sun Feb 14, 2016 8:57 pm

:calvin: :calvin:

Well, Have had same or similar experiences. Especially out at Neah Bay. But several times in the Channel Islands and once in Monterey where I had at least 15 all around me. My response is usually to play with them...I typically do a couple barrel rolls and hang upside down and look at them and they seem to get bored...Almost like they are saying, well, this guy is no fun. I have never felt fearful or threatened ever! I have had them startle me for sure. Once on a night dive at Sund, down in the muck, I had one come right out of the dark to within a few inches of my face. That will certainly get the heart rate up! At Breakwater I had an older Harbor Seal hunting in my light on a night dive. Bottom Lion ;) Don't be "that guy" who drags a stringer of Lings through the group, or barks at them. I am sure they will oblige you with a round or two of diver Ping Pong.

As with all things diving, these guys are just one of the many things I LOVE about the whole diving adventure!

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Re: Sea lion friend or foe?

Post by Randar » Sun Feb 14, 2016 8:58 pm

Ohhh and by the way..>Awesome Shot Bob!!!

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