Saturday, December 6, 2008

Elefantes Marinas de Chubut

By Katharine

Our family stayed in a hotel next to a lighthouse at Punta Delgada, on the Peninsula Valdes. We went to see a colony of southern elephant seals down on the beach. We sat in the back of a Land Rover on the way, while the guide in the front seat talked to me with a walkie-talkie. The ride down was great, because you could see the sea and the cliffs, and the path was bumpy, dusty, and lumpy.

When we stopped, she led us down a big, sandy cliff to the beach where the elephant seals were lying. First we heard a noise that Dad thought was elephant seal farts, but the guide said that they were calling. It sounded like a burp to Europe. They burped so loudly that they nearly blew our ears off.

We sat on the beach, watching them from 10 yards away. Some were in big groups and some were by themselves. Every few seconds, the seals would try to cover themselves with sand using their flippers. When they opened their mouths to call, the inside of their mouths were a bubble-gum pink. Their eyes were big and black, and the whites of their eyes were red, making them look bloodshot.

A male elephant seal is the size of a Punch Buggy, and can weigh 8,800 pounds. A male is the size of seven females. The full-grown males had gone to the ocean to get food, so only the girls and the young males were left with the babies. They were shedding, so we found lots of skin and hair on the beach.

Elephant seals eat fish, squid, and other sea animals. They can stay underwater for two hours and can dive 4,900 feet deep.

On land, the elephant seals move on their bellies like worms. Their back goes up, then their middle goes down, and then their front goes up, just like a seesaw. They are so fat that when they do the worm, the fat rolls up and down.

We wished for an orca to come to the beach to eat an elephant seal. They come really fast and fling themselves on the beach. When an elephant seal tries to get away, they pick them up and eat them, and then go back into the water. We didn’t see that happen, but we did spot some orcas (read my post about horses).

When we left the beach, Graham and I took the Land Rover, while Mom and Dad walked back to the hotel. We got to drive the Land Rover with the guide. She pressed the brake and the accelerator, while we steered.

Katharine coordinated all movement.

Elephant seals on the beach below.

Making the descent to the beach.

Louise now feels good about her weight.

Louise enjoys a spa treatment.

Dermabrasion helped a little, but not much.

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