Every once in a while, I leave paradise and venture forth. So, earlier this year, I drove up the coast to see the elephant seals, just four miles north of San Simeon. Of course, I took my obligatory tour (for the third time) of William Randolph Heart’s quaint castle on the hill, but that is not why I drove over four hours north of Malibu. I was there to watch several hundred elephant seals lie on the beach and do their thing, and February is perhaps the best time to observe these monsters of the sea while they are land based.
The first thing you need to know about elephant seals is they are neither attractive nor graceful. Nobody has ever compared them to Fred Astaire. Although they move almost effortlessly in the water, they are clumsy on land, where they spend several months a year to give birth and to mate. They are so fat (morbidly obese doesn’t quite do them justice) that most of the time, they just lie on the beach motionless and are practically indistinguishable from large boulders.
The newborn pups bark incessantly until their mothers strain to roll over and nurse them. As soon as the pups are weaned, the mating starts. The bulls, which can weigh over 6,000 pounds, muster whatever energy they have to battle one another, often drawing blood. They struggle for about 30 seconds and then the combatants collapse and take a nap before regaining enough energy to continue the fight.
Finally, the victor gets the spoils and approaches a female by undulating his blubber across the sand. If you ever feel like you could lose a few pounds, don’t worry about it. Look at one of these monsters and you will feel as thin as the most anorectic model.
Exerting all its energy, the bull finally reaches the fair maiden and actually collapses on her. She lets out a very unhappy scream; you would too if 6,000 pounds of ugly bleeding blubber landed on you. The so-called mating is over in seconds and the bull then does what he does best – collapses for another well-earned nap.
There must be something wrong with me, but I thoroughly enjoy watching these huge mammals. I can only watch so many movies and TV shows. (I retract that last sentence since I don’t want to alienate most Malibuites who happen to earn their livelihood in “the business.”)
And if there is one thing you can glean from this column, it’s that an occasional donut or slice of pizza won’t hurt you a bit. Just observe these elephant seals and you will never feel so good about your body.