Sunday, September 6, 2009

Grey seal circus and a great white shark sighting

The first evening of our Cape Cod vacation we all piled in the car for the 20 minute drive east to Chatham where my mother claimed you could see dozens of seals as they followed the fishing boats back into port. I believed her since that seems like something a seal would quickly catch on to, and she was right. When we got out of the car and walked to the dock to where the Sea Dancer was unloading her catch of flounder there they were, about six large grey seals lazily circling around the back to the boat waiting for scraps to be tossed overboard.

This one was even monopolizing the drain hole at the back so he or she could lap up every last bit of fish. If you click and enlarge you can even see a scrap about to fall right into the awaiting seal's mouth:

They were incredibly unphased by the ten humans on the dock right above them. And didn't even flinch when the truck that was receiving the catch started its diesel engine and pulled away with a rumble.

Thousands of grey seals live on the sand bars that form around Monomy Island at what's referred to as the elbow of Cape Cod.

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If you enlarge this photo you can see a whole colony of them right off the dock where I took the other photos. They're the black lumps on the sand bar in the center of the photo, past the bow of the boat.
Seals have made such a successful rebound in the last few years that every summer, around Labor Day, there's another great white shark sighting. Yesterday five were spotted off of Chatham and many of the popular surfing beaches have been closed. Two of the sharks have been tagged with satellite tags so scientists can track their movements. I'm sure more info will be released in the next 24 hours. I will keep you posted. The last phone call I recieved from my husband today while I'm stuck at work was to tell me he was heading towards Chatham to go surfing. I, however, think I will stay off my surfboard during this vacation, I just know too much about shark behavior to feel comfortable with five prowling great whites out there. One perhaps....but not five.


  1. I have been hearing the info about the sharks on CNN. I don't think I would go near the water either and I don't know a thing about shark behavior. I couldn't get all the photos to enlarge, but they are still terrific shots. I think it would have been exciting to see all the seal activity in person.

  2. Rae: thanks for the tip on the enlarging issue. I published this from my work machine, which is old and annoying. I will republish it from my Mac if I can get WiFi back at the Cape house (it was working last night...) that should hopefully fix it. I'll have to watch CNN, they're always good for a nice sensational point of view!

  3. When I was in the Galapagos, we went on a tour of the smaller islands, which are covered with seals. What I didn't realize is how badly they stink! Yikes! I'll look for a couple of my pictures to share and add them to the mix of possible blogs.

  4. quick! go sign your hubbie up for more life insurance!

  5. I would love to see seals, that would be so awesome to me. I have never seen a seal, other than at a zoo. I think I would stay out of the water too with that many sharks around. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

  6. Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog even thought I don't always comment. I don't get to the shore as often as I did when I lived in MD so I enjoy seeing it through your eyes. Thanks.

  7. DJan: yup, seals are pretty stinky, you should try hanging out in our mammal pool after a really big feed. yuck!

    deborah: I did take out a sizable policy on the husband after the baby was born, I was thinking ahead! he's like an action figure, always doing something that could kill him....

    Lisa: if you're ever out this way let me know and I'll show you lots of seals! I see them all the time up near where I live as well as on the outer Cape.

    Squirrel: I do the same with your blog: read a week or two of your postings at a time and comment if I have a few seconds. Blog reading is far more time consuming than I anticipated! It's like a whole second job! Thanks for dropping by though, nice to see you!

    Thanks for reading everyone, I'll try to get a picture of those sharks, but from a safe distance and on dry land!

  8. nice narrative here... and for sure... where there's lots of seals... you're sure to find sharks!!!

  9. I was out in Chatham last summer and watched the seals swimming around the fish docks. Later, they were all around our boat in Stage Harbor.
    Chatham is such a beautiful place.

  10. Hi Kate, I have an award waiting for you.


  11. Sharks..... yikes. You wouldn't catch me in the water. The seals are lovely but tell them to watch out for Jaws.

  12. Jon: thanks for the compliment on my writing! From you that means a lot!

    matthew: these sharks are real close to Stage Harbor, Chatham is a beautiful place! I wish my mom's house were out there and not Dennisport...but beggars can't be choosers!

    AL: thanks again for the award! I will get over to your site and get it up on my site soon, I just got reliable internet back.

    Topiary: thanks!

    RT: we cut our vacation short since it's raining and there's no way we're going in the water with what's now reported to be TWELVE sharks! YIKES!

  13. When I was reading about the great whites a few days ago I was wondering if you were any where around. I'm with you, one great white is one thing but a dozen, stay out of the water. Didn't they manage to take one or two?



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