Sean and the Sea Lion: a pinniped story in photographs

Boing Boing reader John K. Goodman shares a series of photographs with us that tell a magical story about a sea lion and his son, Sean. Every time John and his son visit the Long Beach aquarium, she loves to play with Sean's dad's keys. Wonderful photos resulted.

By Xeni Jardin at 4:23 pm Wed, Nov 7, 2012

Boing Boing reader John K. Goodman shares this photo in the Boing Boing Flickr pool and explains,

Every time we go to the local aquarium, there is one sea lion in particular who likes to play a game with Sean.

She loves to chase after my keys as Sean throws them up in an arc against the curved glass of the aquarium. She'll do it for a long time and seems to uniquely enjoy it as much as Sean does.

This weekend, she REALLY wanted to play, and we drew quite a crowd. It was great fun for everyone, and I got some good shots while we were there.

Here's a link to the whole gorgeous photo set. I love this sequence, which is best viewed large. This encounter took place at the Long Beach Aquarium.


Boing Boing reader John K. Goodman shares this photo in the Boing Boing Flickr pool and explains,

Every time we go to the local aquarium, there is one sea lion in particular who likes to play a game with Sean.

She loves to chase after my keys as Sean throws them up in an arc against the curved glass of the aquarium. She'll do it for a long time and seems to uniquely enjoy it as much as Sean does.

This weekend, she REALLY wanted to play, and we drew quite a crowd. It was great fun for everyone, and I got some good shots while we were there.

Here's a link to the whole gorgeous photo set. I love this sequence, which is best viewed large. This encounter took place at the Long Beach Aquarium.


Published 4:23 pm Wed, Nov 7, 2012

About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

23 Responses to “Sean and the Sea Lion: a pinniped story in photographs”

  1. That is just a gorgeous photograph.

  2. Oh…. the aquarium glass is on the floor. 

    • eldritch says:

      Um… no it isn’t? :P

      If you look at the light streaming from above, and the surface of the water, or look at the informational placard on the wall in the other images, it becomes clear which way is up.

      The glass IS, however, strongly curved in a concave manner… perhaps that’s affecting your perception of it?

  3. MollyMaguire says:

    That’s cute. One time while visiting an aquarium, we, for various logistical reasons, decided to change our son’s diaper right in front of a big window like this. The seal that had been cruising around in circles suddenly stalled out on the other side of the glass and watched intently while we completed the operation.

    • cdh1971 says:

      They’re intelligent and he or she was probably thinking ‘ah…okay, that’s what’s under the hood. Interesting.’ 

      On the other hand, being a caniform, perhaps there was a bit of ‘mmmm….delicious poop’ mixed in with this. 

  4. robcat2075 says:

    that is so dark i can’t figure out what is happening? Keys? Arc?

  5. Itsumishi says:

    Something very strange going on with the formatting of this page. Comments are very squished.

  6. nvlady says:

    I think it’s pretty bitchin’ that kid is wearing a Blues Brothers shirt.

  7. This is like a Disney movie, only better.

  8. catgrin says:

    Hi there. I live about five blocks from the Aquarium of the Pacific, am a member there, and can explain the “game”. Some of the seals and seal lions at the AoP are trained to follow a small, shiny object run along the glass. It’s so that tours can get good views of the animals. If you want to see one follow something, a less scratchy option is a coin – like a shiny penny! Just run it along in front of the glass (it works without even touching) and a pinniped that’s trained to follow will do so. 

    Here’s a link to a video of some kids doing just that.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FcG5uxKrRA

  9. JG says:

    A prime example of why these creatures should NOT be kept in confinement. 

    • cdh1971 says:

      Yes, JG, this is an increasing source of cognitive dissonance for me.  Based on your comment, I’m guessing you have NO cognitive dissonance with this subject ;)

      I believe that no wild pinnipeds (and et al) should be captured for display. The pic series is really cute, but I have seen in person and in media, similar interaction, in the human’s and pinniped’s natural habitat.

      My cognitive dissonance is that there are pinnipeds that have been born in captivity and have diminished capacity to live elsewhere, and the ones that were taken in, and treated for injuries that, even when treated and healed, would be fatal in the wild. 

      However, I agree with your comment.

    • eldritch says:

      Thankfully, the fact is many such animals are in captivity because otherwise they’d not be alive at all. Often aquariums house animals that have suffered injuries, have been orphaned, or have in some other way become unfit to survive in the wild.

      It’s not as if the standard behavior for zoological exhibits is to go out into the wild and capture healthy animals purely to contain them for human amusement. Does that sometimes happen? Sadly yes, in some places in the world. But the vast majority of reputable zoos, aquariums, aviaries, and the like operate within established guidelines and based upon respectable ethical beliefs.

  10. penguinchris says:

    Recognized the aquarium right away. That sea lion tunnel is a great spot for photos:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/penguinchris/2834461705/ (the rainbow effect here came naturally, due to filter or coating interference between the camera, lens, and aquarium glass – I had a polarizing filter on).

  11. xmaseveeve says:

    Amazing. The sealions at Fisherman’s Wharf laugh back at the audience when restaurant staff throw them the leftover fish! It was life affirming when everyone responded. 

  12. cdh1971 says:

    This behaviour makes sense. Pinnipeds are caniforms, or canoids. 

    Quoting from Wikipedia:

    “Caniformia, or Canoidea (literally “dog-like”), is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and non-retractile claws (in contrast to the cat-like carnivorans, the Feliformia). The Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions and walruses) evolved from caniform ancestors and are accordingly assigned to this group.” Here’s the WikiP link: 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caniformia

    What I find interesting, is that many species of pinnipeds can, and have been either been taken in by humans, or having developed an affection for humans & their food (like the blue-jays, yard dear or squirrels), have moved in, and have _not_ been snarly, snappy, or disembowely. 

    Wolves have moved in with humans like this, but with a lot more of the snarly, snappy and disembowely. Current theory is dogs mostly came about by the self-domestication of wolves, independent of human intent (Deliberate human breeding of dogs came much, much later, after we stopped living in caves and eating our own poop.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-domestication

    I think that maybe there is something about the social structure of marine mammals that selects for more cooperation and a different sort of social-intelligence than is required for land-mammals.

    • cdh1971 says:

      I don’t know what the fcuk is wrong with Discus formatting. In my original posts, no matter how many hard returns I do, the text will be displayed in one block after I save it – or maybe not – don’t know until I save it.  I’m not bitching of course — yes I am. 

      I then have to click edit, then make new breaks, using the small, 3.5 line window.  If it can’t be fixed – no big deal, only takes another minute. But, for a second or two, I think or bellow ‘Discus…Discuus….Discuuuuus.’

      I hear a tiny violin playing. _How_Dare_You_

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Even if you could make more than one hard return, I would take them out; the threads are already too long and skinny as is.

        • cdh1971 says:

          Gotcha. Hadn’t considered this. Thanks for letting me know. I will just let it post as-is w/o the repeated anal over-editing and whacking return. 

  13. kiwidebz says:

    They are really beautiful photos – aquarium light has an ethereal quality that’s sometimes not easy to capture. Kudos to Mr Goodman!

    Here’s something quite at the other end of the scale: http://youtu.be/B-yUKS3O66A.
    This Northern fur seal (named Cordova) seems to be quite famous for her wonderful “vocalisations” :-)

    http://www.neaq.org/animals_and_exhibits/exhibits/whats_new_and_coming_soon/seals_and_sea_lions/
    Such wonderful creatures in so many ways!

  14. aikimoe says:

    The first time my son saw anything like this was at the beautiful zoo in Portland, OR.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aikimoe/459393766/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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