Thursday, February 8, 2018


Thomas Elsmore (1872-1887) Seal Hunting 7 inch child's plate

I recently went to visit the elephant seals in Ano Nuevo State Park in California. I have been to see them before.  My first visit in 1972 was without a tour or a docent.  Lots of people walked among resting, mating, and restless elephants seals.  It wasn't ideal for either elephant seals or humans.  Now you need a reservation and a docent.

The beach is filled with elephant seals.  Some of the sandy lumps are actually elephant seals covered in sand.  They cover themselves with sand to stay cool. You can click on the photo to make it larger.

The child's plate above is the only transferware pattern with seals that I could find. (The seals are not elephant seals.)  If there are other seal patterns, let me know.  The pattern shows the clubbing and hooking of seals. The molded alphabet border does aid in learning the alphabet, but the clubbing of seals would be deemed an inappropriate gift for today's child. (To see other inappropriate patterns for children follow this link.)

In the 19th century, elephant seals were hunted to near extinction. They were actually thought to be extinct by 1884, but a group of eight were discovered in 1892 on Guadalupe Island in Mexico by a Smithsonian expedition. Unfortunately, the Smithsonian scientists killed seven of the elephant seals for the Smithsonian collections!  Luckily, there were more elephant seals elsewhere.  The Mexican government and the United States government have protected elephant seals since the early 20th century, and there are now many thousands of them.

The elephant seal gets its name from the large proboscis of the adult male or bull.  The bull weighs around 5500 pounds, which is the size of a large car. The docent mentioned a Cadillac SUV. The bulls can move between 1 to 2 miles an hour, so you definitely don't want to get between them and a female or rival.  Thus, the importance of a guided visit.

Notice the large proboscis of the male elephant seal. The female is a lot smaller and her face is like more common seals.

I'll add that the elephant seal does not have the velvety fur of the fur seal.  It feels like coarse hair (the docent had a sample for us to feel).  It is lucky that the elephant seal was not hunted for its fur as well as its blubber (used for oil lamps).

It was lovely to visit such a beautiful state park and such unusual animals.  California is filled with natural wonders.  Let's hope all of these animals and natural beauties are preserved for us and future generations. It is not a given.

A few more things or a digression.  On the way home I stopped to take photos of the lighthouse at Pigeon Point.  I also ate lunch at Duarte's (in business at the same place since 1894) in Pescadero.  If you like artichokes, seafood, and pie, you will be very happy. I bought a hot from the oven strawberry and rhubarb pie and an olallie pie for David.  We shared them with friends and family.  They are huge and delicious.

Pigeon Point and Pigeon Point Lighthouse near Pescadero, California. Thank you Barbara for making us stop!

This is what is left of the Olallie Berry and Strawberry Rhubarb pies.

Mrs. Duarte's photo appears on the pie box.

I have traveled to many places in the world, but to quote Dorothy: "There's no place like home."

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