Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Going Pro with Pinnipeds

To me, it seems unfair to only experience the elephant seal world while they are hauled out on land. They spend the majority of their life in a completely different medium: water. While on land, elephant seals seem awkward, clunky, bulky, strange, sluggish, and silly, but in the water they are beautiful and possess a certain gracefulness that can’t be fully appreciated while they are bound to land. I was interested in entering the pinniped world (the group that includes seals, sea lions and walruses), but I wanted to remain non-invasive. After a short brainstorming session and some mild construction with Ryan Berger (the lead winter biologist), we created the “GoPro on a stick”. It’s essentially a GroPro camera jerry-rigged and mounted onto a five-foot long PVC pipe. On calm days with good visibility I would simply lower the GoPro into large tide pools or calm gulches. The juvenile elephant seals were particularly interested in the ridiculous contraption we had created, and invited themselves to check it out. Some behaviors included rubbing their vibrissae (whiskers) on the lens, swimming up and inspecting the GoPro for a closer view, and occasionally a little nibble. This video is the result of a few days using the GoPro on a stick in exploration of these magnificently well-adapted pinnipeds in their underwater domain. I hope these kinds of glimpses into the lives of these creatures enlighten, inspire, and create an awareness of how astonishing these animals are.

[vimeo 84739752 w=500 h=281]

SEFI VIDEO from Claire Nasr on Vimeo.