A Sea Lion with Brawn

See video

My ride home, the motor sailer “Maia”, arrived on Jan 10th and has been hanging around for the last few days to ferry various expedition teams to some difficult to access locations around the island. On Jan 12th the history, terrestrial ecology, and freshwater ecology teams were taken around to Northeast Harbour for a days work.

Northeast Harbour was the location of one of the largest whaling stations on the island and at its head is the mouth of Northeast Stream, a stream we had sampled the upper catchment of previously. Remnants of the old whaling station exist as general bric-a-brac including bricks, timbers, and concrete but perhaps the most impressive remains are three try-pots that once rendered whale blubber. It was next to these try-pots that we were dropped off by the Maia’s dinghy.

Our walk up the stream to a suitable sampling point was made more interesting by a very persistent sea lion that followed us for around 200 metres before giving up. Sampling was completed in cool, windy conditions with periodic showers and very brief sunny periods. We were then keen to return to the pick-up location but unfortunately we ran into the same sea lion who this time was giving expedition leader, Colin Meurk, a hard time by chasing him through the Dracophyllum. Seconds after we met up with Colin, the angry beast came bursting through the bush and trapped us in the stream with nearly impenetrable Dracophyllum forest on either side. After 20 minutes under siege, we managed to get past the sea monster and hurry off downstream.

Of all my sea lion encounters on the island this was the most concerning to me as the persistent pursuit and aggression shown by this large male was not something I had seen before. Large males usually bark briefly or totally ignore you but this one definitely had a screw loose or thought he was guarding something. The day ended with the welcome news that we would be staying in Northeast Harbour for the night aboard the Maia as the weather was a bit rough to warrant a run back to Perseverance Harbour that night.  

The video was captured by Shelley. My apologies for the lack of footage - she spent a lot of the time hiding behind me.

[Alex James]