The official name for this place along the coast is the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. It is located just off the Pacific Coast Highway north of the Hearst Castle. When elephant seals aren’t out at sea they like to hang out here.
This is a picture of an elephant seal I saw on a sign at the overlook.
And here’s what I saw when I looked out on the beach:
I thought they were all dead.
But if you stand and watch for a while it doesn’t take long to figure out that they are very much alive, and they put on quite an entertaining show to see and hear.
First of all, these creatures are HUGE. A fully grown female elephant seal can weigh as much as two and half tons. And since seals don’t have arms or legs, only small flippers and tails, they can only scoot along the ground by arching their backs…. well, like seals.
The signage at the overlook explains what these seals are doing. Sleeping (obviously), vocalizing (they make a variety of grunting, snorting and belching sounds – and apparently when they are breeding it gets pretty loud here!), scratching (themselves with their flippers), flipping sand (again, with their flippers, up onto their body) and sparring (they get into “fights” with each other, both to display their superiority over another or to voice their displeasure with others).
The gray seal in the center of the next picture is making a run for it. Well, sort of. This young seal was working it’s way back to the ocean. It would advance maybe 20 feet then stop. After a short rest it would advance another 20 feet, and so on. According to the signs at the overlook males should be out at sea this time of year so presumably the seals I was seeing were females and infants (some of them BIG infants).
This seal was yelling, and a few minutes later one of equal size came over from the left and they had a little sparring match.
Many seals were laying near, and in, a watering hole:
Well, this big seal decided she wanted to get there too and shuffled her way over and proceeded to try and squeeze in between two others who were already there. Well, I probably couldn’t have fit my hand between the two that were there so this one just pushed her way on top of them and the others turned their heads and snarled at her.
It really was hilarious.
I thought I had taken more photos with the digital camera but apparently I didn’t. I’ve been told I will see more of these when I get up to San Francisco in a few weeks so I’ll get more pictures there. I’m sure you can find videos on YouTube to see these big seals maneuver on the beach and interact with each other.