Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Bearded Arctic Seal: Ft. Lauderdale 2007

I was working as a bridge tender on Las Olas Boulevard, above the Intracoastal and near the beach. I'd been there for quite a while by the time I saw the Bearded Arctic seal.

It was evening--my regular hours, if I remember right, were 4pm to 11pm--and I looked down in the waters below me and saw something swimming. This thing was big, dark colored, and it would come up and down out of the water. It looked like a manatee that swam like a dolphin. It didn't really look completely like a manatee, but I could not figure out what else it possibly could be in South Florida.

At my bridge the dinner cruise boats would pass through each night--ah, what were their names, names like Celebration, Carrie B, others of varying sizes (and dispositions of their captains). One of the those vessels called in (as required) to pass through the bridge and I told the captain that there was a manatee in the waters and he acknowledged that and said he'd be on the look out. I hadn't seen the "manatee" for a little while, though they were creatures who didn't travel very far very fast. And after I raised the bridge and the party boat passed, I didn't think much of it--other than it was a strange-looking manatee that I had seen.

And then, later in the week, it hit me.

That had been no manatee. That was a Bearded Arctic seal.

Now, I didn't come up with this revelation all on my own, out of nowhere, out of the blue, from the recesses of my mind. No. In the newspaper and on the television, there had been reports about a Bearded Arctic seal that had swam way, way, way too far south and was in Florida waters. In fact, they were trying to catch it because it wouldn't survive in the warm waters.

So, I put two and two together and realized that that was what I had seen. Even when I first saw it I had thought: a seal! But I'd never known South Florida to have seals. That's why I had dismissed it and gone with my manatee theory.

But, yes, I saw the lost Bearded Arctic seal.

And, by the next week, it had died.

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