As I hit the surface, fish on spear, I hear an uproar of barking. I think to myself, “that can’t be a dog, we are nearly 20 miles away from any land life…it must be an ocean creature.” I scope my surroundings, and 100 meters to my right I see two male sea lions approaching me and my dinner.
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Their heads bobbing as they swim towards me, starring my fish directly in its recently speared body, twitching as it completes its life cycle. I’m okay with the sea lions stealing my fish, but at the expense of my hand, I’d rather not get any closer to them. A few years back, I had a sea lion encounter fishing in Haida Gwaii where I went to grab a fish off the side of the boat and had a sea lion appear from beneath the depths and almost grab my hand while grabbing my fish.
As the sea lions continue to swim closer, I look at my dive partner, ex-NHL superstar Willie Mitchell, with wide eyes and flighting body language. He notices the sea lions approaching me and we both swim over to the rock closest to us and jump on for safety. The swell was increasing and the waves were washing over the rocks from the other side where the open ocean was. It started to toss us around as we sat on the rocks watching for the sea lions’ next move. I quickly finished harvesting my catch while being thrown around on the rocks. Willie and I decided to jump back in the water and continue our hunt with a new humbling association with our dive environment.
Upon reflection had we remained calm, I believe the sea lion encounter could have been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I have many friends who scuba and interact with sea lions often, and from research and story sharing, I know they can be curious, harmless beasts.
Understanding their behavior and reading the situation accordingly can pose for a wildly epic encounter.Had I not had their potential supper in my hand and read into their barking aggressive behavior, I may have allowed the interaction to occur. These encounters and experiences happen often when being submerged in the ocean. They are constant, humbling reminders that I am amongst territory I have little control of, in a place I can by no means conquer. To think I can control the elements and work against the natural occurrences of the ocean would be a deathly mistake. I am grateful for my free diving because it gives me new perspective, it humbles my existence, it provides me a sustainable living practice, and it keeps my ego in check. This time, I got away with supper, but next time, maybe, I’ll share my catch with sea lions.
Photos by @nicole.Holmann and @lonelyspruce