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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Sea Lion Cave

Air Date: Week of

A solitary sea lion reaches above the surf to exhale. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Sea lions can be extremely friendly and inquisitive but as Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, reports it’s still best to keep your distance.


CURWOOD: Sea lions can be extremely friendly and inquisitive but as our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, reports it’s still best to keep your distance.

Sea Lion Cave
Southern Sea Lion
Sea of Cortez
© 2021 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

LENDER: This is the place where sea lions live. Islands of stone softened by time, the color of wood the color of shell in the Sea of Cortez. Underwater, the barking of the big males carries louder than in air. And further, and deeper.

Ahrr! Ahrr!

Ahrr! Ahrr! Ahrr! Ahrr! Ahrr!

Your body thrums when they pass beside you close enough to touch; but that would be a foolish thing to do. You don’t want to startle them. They might take umbrage. With a mouth full of teeth and they weigh a thousand pounds.

While I am… weightless. Enveloped, in a personal silence displaced only by the hiss and click of the regulator timed to the metronome of my breath. It is slack tide. There is no current to fight. I let myself drift into the underwater cave...

The floor is white sand made turquoise by water, the walls and ceiling high enough, wide enough there is no sense of entrapment and the ripples splash light all around. And the young sea lions arrive, more and more, each to see what the others have found, which is me.

A sea lion naps in the midday sun. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

They want to know every thing there is to know, about me.

One of them takes my arm in his mouth, his jaws smaller than his father’s but big enough and He works his way down, shoulder to hand, testing my wetsuit with just the pressure required to feel through the neoprene. Not yet sure… Is the suit just the suit and the part that gives differently, inside, something else? Another makes the same test, then swims away, then circles back so we are eye-to-eye except he is floating upside down and -

- BOOH! -

Blows bubbles in my face.

He covers the length of me back toward the opening of the cave in that easy liquid way in which they move. And just when it’s been long enough I think he’s gone -

Chomp! As hard as he can! And tugs with all the force his young body can deliver -

- on my flippers!

Because, by some sense some intuition or precocious knowledge he now knows: “This part is not you and there I can do whatever I want!”

As if, he has, a sense of… Humor!

CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.



Learn more about author and photographer Mark Seth Lender’s work

Read Mark's Field Note for this essay

Special thanks to Destination: Wildlife


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