January 17, 2011 — Here’s how I imagine it. An archangel, let’s just say Michael, walks into God’s office and says: “Uh, God? I need to talk to you.”
God sighs, looks up from a TV Guide, and says, “I’m not really sure I can wait long enough for them to invent it, Mike,” and then after a sigh that births sorrow in a thousand other creations continues, “So…what brings you here? Is something wrong with Earth? Remember, it’s brand new, so expect that a few bugs will need to be worked out of the system.”
“No, no. Everything’s fine. You did a great job. The ecosystem seems to be sustaining itself, the weather maintains optimal pleasantness, and everybody has so far stayed away (God-willing) from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s just…”
“Well, it’s about the pinnipeds.”
“Seals, sea lions, walruses, those chaps.”
“Well, me and the guys have been talking. Honestly? Not your best work.”
God lets out a thoughtful “Hm” that lasts a few millennia and then answers, “I can see your point, Mike, but, truthfully, I kind of like them. I’ll tell you what. Let’s just let natural selection figure it all out. That’s what it’s there for, after all.”
Now, I kind of agree with both God and Michael in that scenario. That’s why any chance I get to see one of those mammalian slugs we call seals, sea lions, and walruses, I take advantage of it. Very few things in life provide the opportunity to both marvel at and be befuddled by them. Pinnipeds are my standard for that.
time I spent with seals behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium in Boston, but pinnipeds have popped up a couple more times in my life, most relevantly to this article, in sea lion form. I’m speaking of Sea Lion Caves outside of Florence, OR, and Pier 39 in San Francisco, CA.
Sea Lion Caves have been around as a natural formation for millions of years, and as a tourist attraction for almost a century. Despite that auspiciously long timeline, though, the place looks like your classic tourist trap from the outside. The entrance is a low building inches from the side of the Oregon Coast Highway on one side and even closer to the edge of a cliff on the other, with a gaudy sign and an interior that is crammed with sea lion-, Oregon-, and random-themed souvenirs. However, burn a little bit of expendable income and you’ll be pointed to a set of stairs in the corner of the building.
Anyway, this viewing platform is only a sort of sea lion aperitif, as eventually you’ll retrace your steps down a hill and into an elevator to descend 200-odd feet to the base of the cliff. “Sea lion aperitif” sounds disgusting, but I think I’d still try it.
So, seals here, sea lions above, and walruses, well, you guys are next. Expect Wilfred Brimley jokes for that one.