Did You Know (Harp Seal)

Photos by E.J. Lefavour

That Harp seals spend relatively little time on land and prefer to swim in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans? These sleek swimmers cruise the chilly waters and feed on fish and crustaceans. They can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes. Harp seals are sometimes called saddleback seals because of the dark, saddlelike marking on the back and sides of their light yellow or gray bodies.

Both sexes return each year to breeding grounds in Newfoundland, the Greenland Sea, and the White Sea. On this turf males fight for their mates, battling with sharp teeth and powerful flippers.

When the mating ends, females gather in groups to give birth. Young harp seals are born on the ice, and mothers identify their own offspring from the multitudes by their smell. The young seals are famous for their snowy white coats. This fluffy fur is highly valued and has drawn hunters to the Newfoundland breeding grounds for two centuries. During the past several decades these grounds have become the scene of a human conflict between sealers and outraged environmentalists and animal rights activists. Modern hunts are better regulated than in the past, but the harp seal remains perhaps the most commercially important seal, with hundreds of thousands killed each year. (From National Geographic)

This harp seal seemed to have no interest in the cold water and appeared to be enjoying his/her sunbath on the dock, and was also really into posing for the camera.  In the first shot, he’s giving a big smike and wave to everyone out there in GMG land.  Maybe he’ll stick around Cape Ann where he’ll be safer. 

My grandfather grew up in Newfoundland near Piss Pot Rock (really, that was what it was called), and was a sealer when he was a young man.  (There, that dark secret from my mother’s family history is out of the closet).  He went on to become a longshoreman after he immigrated here, and stopped killing poor defenseless creatures.  After falling into the hold of a ship and breaking himself up, he became a fry cook at his sister and brother-in-law’s awesome restaurant, Wes Parker’s Fried Clams in Wakefield; closed after everyone died off or got too old, but they did have the best fried clams.  Anyone remember them?

E.J. Lefavour

www.khanstudiointernational.com

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