The scene to the left is a view from above of the exhibit called Rocky Point Preserve. The exhibit allows a person to get up close and personal with sea otters and dolphins. I’ve saved the dolphin picks for a later essay.
Today is about the sea otters and sea lions because they appear together in a play performed later: Clyde and Seamore’s Risky Rescue™. There is nothing some people like more at a zoo or circus than seeing how clever other humans are at teaching some “dumb animal” how to do tricks to amuse humans. The play speaks to the craving of such people. I figure it could have been worse, however. The stars of this show also perform a take off of the Tonight Show called Sea Lions Tonight. We were spared that one.
One should always remember when one is in San Diego that above all else, it is a Navy town. Every public gathering seems to begin with a salute to the people currently in uniform, an invitation to veterans to stand (an invitation which I find I never accept), and an invocation of nationalistic pride and/or jingoism. In the case of Clyde and Seamore, the play has a naval theme.
At Rocky Point Preserve I made quite a few attempts to get photos of sea otters, animals I just adore. This guy was fast. I got just the one photo below to the left of the sea lion on the surface. It had a circuit. After surfacing for a backstroke or two, it would dive and swim a loop, exiting through a cave and tunnel which leads to another part of the pool, swimming towards the place where it would display the backstroke again. On the right is a partially failed attempt to catch my camera’s prey just before it entered the cave…which results in a partial otter.
I did not take a photo of the lump laying in the sun which may or may not have been the spouse of the one who was playing.
Several attempts later I finally picked up the rhythm sufficiently to get a whole otter. Any resemblance to a torpedo is, I am sure, purely coincidental.
Sea otters are an endangered species. At one time there were 150,000-300,000 of them…before humans hunted them to near extinction between 1741 and 1911 for the luxurious fur, when their numbers had dwindled to between one and two thousand. A monumental conservation effort has restored them to two-thirds of their historic range, but some populations have recently declined or plateaued and they are constantly endangered by off-shore drilling and oil spills.
Sea otters are the largest members of the weasel family, which includes the weasels, of course, as well as both sea and river otters, badgers, wolverines, minks, sables, martens, ferrets, the tayras and grisóns of Central America, polecats and stoats.
Much later in the day we happened upon Clyde and Seamore at Show Time. Clyde and Seamore are sea lions who play members of the crew of a submarine.
The show starts out with a mime. As everyone knows, all the world hates a mime. Especially one dressed in a sailor’s costume. But the dude interacted with children well, so it was only mildly annoying as a diversion while waiting for the crowd to enter and be seated.
It was the role of the woman sea lion trainer to play the junior officer of the USS Motley, a submarine ready for mothballs. Her assistant is Clyde (I think…never did quite resolve which was which), the smaller of our two sea lions. They did a few tricks while she explained the back story: Admiral Biggenbotham and his aide are missing. They have to be rescued and the Motley is the only boat available. But where, oh where, are the crew? They go to look.
In comes this golf cart disguised as a jeep, driven by the first mate in a Hawaiian shirt, with a lei around his neck, carrying Seamore (or Clyde?) in the back. They’ve been out having a little too much fun. Tricks. Tricks.
Eventually we get both sea lions on the stage with both trainers. Then we are left for just a minute with the first mate, who mentions being thirsty. An otter walks out on stage on its hind legs, carrying a bottle of Sierra Springs, hands it over to the first mate and then exits. Unfortunately, I missed the bottle carrying part…as I said, these guys are quick.
We all probably need a close-up on that last photo. A river otter is revealed. A Star is Born.
Much hijinx ensues. The otters turn out also to portray the bad guys.
We have weapons escalation until an otter pulls the chord on the cannon, causing the submarine to spring a leak. The audience thereby all get wet.
A dummy version of the mime is thrown from the very top of the set onto the stage below.
I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille.
One of the sea lions swims over to pull a lever and turn off the water. Then a miraculous thing happens. Two walruses enter. They are awesome creatures. My Norwegian ancestors called them their word (hrossvalr) for “horse whale,” which other people (okay, the Dutch) reversed into “whale horse” (walvis ros).
Admiral Biggenbotham is the albino.
Walruses are not considered endangered, except for the part about them living on the Arctic sea ice and ice shelves. They are considered a keystone species in the Arctic ecosystem. They eat mollusks which they collect from the ocean floor.
Grand finale. Applause, applause. Off to the next exhibit.
If we had any smarts, we would have gone to hang with the sea lions and harbor seals. But it wasn’t until we returned home from circumnavigating the entirety of SeaWorld – San Diego that we discovered that we missed its heart by not noticing Pacific Point and the sea lion and harbor seal communities.
Up next? Porpoises, manatees and a cast of thousands…