What Would You Say To A Northern Elephant Seal?




Bette Bardeen


According to Google Earth, an elephant seal lives down the street from me

A photo link shows sand and waves and his enormous nose

But the sand and waves are actually a few blocks further west

And even that high rent district is elephant seal-free


If I did see one, down the street or on the beach

I’d invite him to climb into my van

Drive him to the colony at Piedras Blancas

We’d plan our route on Google Maps

And on the way we’d chat about his trips to the Aleutians

Gobbling hagfish along the Continental Shelf

And of course we’d talk about his sex life

How tiring it is to mate with 50 females


We’d talk about how his species almost became extinct

Just a handful hiding at Guadalupe Island

Unnoticed by whalers and overzealous scientists

Eager to gather specimens for their museums

The Smithsonian thought they’d killed seven of the last eight

Don’t know why they left one


Maybe the eighth one got away

Swam north and somehow managed to live

Much longer than the usual elephant seal

Hung out in cold water in something like suspended animation

And finally, swam north to Cayucos, California

Where a tourist snapped his picture, and posted it on Google Earth


The Google people didn’t realize what a unique seal he was

Or that there aren’t waves or sand on Ocean Avenue

(Though one might think so from its name)

They are too busy loading photos of places like Kugluktuk

Which is at the end of the Northwest Passage

And updating photos of places other than Cayucos

Where, according to Google Earth, my house is under construction

Though it was finished two years ago


I wonder about Google Earth glitches

What other photos are out of date or in the wrong place

Someone might plan a trip to Kugluktuk

For a pristine view of the Beaufort Sea

And be sorely disappointed

By a pile of smelly whalebones


The elephant seal and I would discuss these and other topics

As we followed the sometimes nonsensical route

That is characteristic of Google Maps

And we would marvel at the herd of zebra at San Simeon

That is on the real earth, not just Google Earth

As nonsensical as that seems



Bette Bardeen has previously posted news about the northern elephant seal  and California sea lions on Neptune 911.  She is a Friends of the Elephant Seal docent, a poet, and  one who explores the world while traveling.

Photo by C. Coimbra

Categories: Thoughts

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