I’d say it’s been 20 years or so since I toured Ano Nuevo beach, about half-way between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. It’s the closest thing an average person can do to feel like they’re in a National Geographic documentary. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The Elephant Seals come on shore to mate, and the day I came turned out to be a romantic soap opera that rivals On the Beach, which of course, took place on a beach. A little description of these amazing animals is in order:
A full grown male seal weighs 600 lbs.; a male sea lion weighs 800 lbs.; a full grown Elephant Seal weighs over 6,000 lbs. – that’s 3 tons! These sea monsters come on shore to mate after swimming thousands of miles in the ocean to feed. They’ve been tracked a thousand miles West of the International dateline, and as far North as Alaska. As swimmers, they are spectacular! Diving to a depth of 1500 feet (that’s deeper than whales!) On land…not so great. The males are so big they don’t walk as much as ungulate their massive bodies from one part of the beach to the other. And their name sake is not just their size, but their large proboscis noses, which look like a small trunk of an elephant. These are homely looking guys (to us) but maybe they look handsome to their females. And the bigger the guy, the more attractive he is. The large ones, called alpha-males, gather harems, sometimes hundreds of females that surround him. And around the harem, like spokes of a wheel, is what I describe as the lonely bachelors club.
These younger males, evenly spaced in an outer circle, can only look forlornly of the bevy of beauties in the harem. They remind of me an 80’s single bar: guys nursing their drinks, alone on their bar stools as “Mr. Wonderful” entertains a bevy of beautiful women crowded around him, giggling and laughing at all his jokes. After a while (back to the beach) these wannabe frustrated suitors fall asleep, their big noses vibrating with their snores, all but one:
This young guy is alert, looking around at his fellow bachelors, but mostly scoping out the alpha-male, the territory, and the possibilities. He makes his move, keeping his head close to the ground to avoid detection. He makes it to the edge of the harem, nudges the closest female, who turns her head in surprise. Just as there is a pecking order with the males, so must there be one with the females: those in the center of the harem have better chance of getting laid than the ones on the edge. She seems delighted to meet this young buck, and soon they are making out. For those guys who don’t think foreplay is universal, these two were actually necking and kissing! Suitably warmed up, he mounts her from behind, and their expressions were remarkably humanlike.
He started pumping faster & faster, and soon his eyes were tightly closed as he concentrated on the task at hand. Unfortunately, she also mimicked the female counterpart, and she started vocalizing her pleasure: her seal barks yelling, “Oh God, Oh God, Yes, Yes!!” This woke up the alpha-male in the center of his harem, turning his massive neck in the direction of the increasingly loud couple. He definitely was not pleased, as he ponderously pivoted his massive hulk to the source of this commotion. You could feel the beach shake as this giant moved slowly toward the forbidden lovers, the harem splitting in his path as the other females grabbed their pups and formed an undulating valley to let him pass. You could almost hear the suspenseful music get louder as, step by step (flipper by flipper?), he got closer & closer to our amorous couple.
Everyone could hear it, except our occupied Romeo. His eyes still closed, he was concentrating on achieving climax, as all males do. Reaching orgasm, our couple yelled out their sounds of pleasure. Our Romeo finally opened his eyes. He was nose to nose with the very angry looking alpha male, who appeared twice his size.
Romeo’s eyes had an unmistakable look of “uh-oh”, but there was no escape – he had to fight the big guy. The young guys fought a lot on the beach, but that was just practice, or at the most, jousting for beach position. The way these animals fight most closely resembles sumo wrestling. They rear up on their tails and pound their huge, blubbery bodies against each other, nipping & biting at the sides of their heads. Romeo was no match for Mr. Alpha, and soon ran away (if you can call a two ton animal running, more like wiggling away.) The Alpha chased after him, but remember that lonely bachelor’s club? The Alpha saw all the other young bucks charging his harem from all sides, and quickly had to charge the perimeter and chase them all away. Thus our hero, young Romeo, got a break and got laid and escaped with his life. But wait, this is a romance, and we have to have a storybook ending:
As Romeo retreated to the sand dunes a safe distance away, Juliet, his conquest that day, followed him to the dunes. The music swells, and she leaves the overcrowded harem and follows him. They kiss (they really do kiss) as they wrap their flippers around each other, rolling in the sand in a pinniped embrace. OK, I embellished the ending, but all the above is true. Can’t wait to go back to Ano Nuevo.