Yesterday one of my daughters took me on a seal cruise for my birthday. This was one of those funny years where almost all my birthday gifts involved a boat–my other daughter took me on a whale watch and my sister gave me tickets to go to Martha’s Vineyard. Anyway, we went out with the Beachcomber folks out of Ryder Cove in Chatham. When I first led seal cruises it was with the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History way back when Paul and Paula were first starting their seal cruise business so it was a bit nostalgic as well. If you’ve seen the bright yellow boats bopping around Chatham harbor and down around Monomoy you’ve seen the Beachcomber boats.
It was a picture perfect Cape Cod day….
We stayed inside the big sand spits due to big waves on the outside so we had no chance of seeing sharks….
but we did see lots of seals….
There are now about 10,000 gray seals off the outer Cape, most of them concentrated in the Chatham area, particularly around Monomoy. When I was a kid we almost never saw seals here in the summer. Occasionally we’d see a harbor seal around the canal in the winter but a gray seal? Never. They certainly have made a comeback, however.
These seals were sort of lolling about, taking it easy. Before we came by most of them were “bottling,” a behavior which seems like resting with their noses straight up in the air. They are still very alert but they are not expending much energy. Some seals were doing what looked like back flips into the water, splashing and dunking almost like kids. Some say they may be ridding themselves of parasites doing this but sometimes it is more fun to not be scientific about it and think maybe they are just goofing off.
I love how the seals watch us watching them….
Wouldn’t you like to know what they are thinking? This is probably a young seal since it still is pretty spotty. The females remain spotty with lighter coats than the males but full grown females tend to be larger than this seal was.
This is a great view of their big eyes and long whiskers…
and those huge nostrils….These seals were also called horseheads by the old time fishermen. You can learn more about gray seals through this link.