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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mild: Sea Otter


File:Sea otters holding hands.jpg

They're easy together
inside the pod
when there's no hunting
the yelp of the little
ones is not heard
on good days
when the weather is mild they move
like the vowels in the word
off shore to browse
among sea
urchin and mussel
encrusted submerged reefs
or in drifting patches of
floating kelp

File:Sea-otter-bay 11.jpg


Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) holding paws while sleeping, Vancouver Aquarium: photo by joemess, 2006
Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) mother back-floating, holding her pup, Morro Bay, Ca.: photo by Mike Baird, 2007
Kelp forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium: photo by Stef Maruch, 2007


TC said...

The first naturalist to observe the Sea Otter in its native habitat was Georg Wilhelm Steller, who visited the Kamchatka Peninsula with Vitus Bering in the mid-Eighteenth Century. Steller's field notes reflect the awe these amazing creatures would stir in many generations of naturalists to come.

"They embrace their young with an affection that is scarcely credible," Steller noted.

Of course there were soon other Western travellers to the Northwest Pacific Coast whose designs upon the Sea Otter were deadly.

That very sad story was the basis of my elegiac poem Empire of Skin.

. said...

'like the vowels in the word.....'

Perfect, and such adorable photos Tom.


Thanks for such a 'look', sea otters not around here but I've seen them many times below my father's house on the coast south of Carmel. Meanwhile, something for you to see here ---


first grey light in sky above still black
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

of the same relation, these
seeing it as sequence

“there,” to hear as well as
see, place said to be

whiteness of fog reflected in channel,
gulls flapping toward invisible point

gamefaced said...

'mild they move
like the vowels in the word

yes. this. said...

love and survival - you're familiar with
the Vancouver otters vid, yes? -
and poor Nyac - RIP - victim of Exxon Valdez oil spill

Melissa said...

I glimpsed my first sea otter three years ago and fell hopelessly in love--I visit Monterey/Point Lobos yearly to visit them, these creatures with eyes full of poetry

TC said...

Thank you all.

I think we are on the same page. And lucky to be in the same world with these creatures.

If only the history of human relations with them could be done over.

Christine Young said...

Now that is a poem I can enjoy to read over and over, like the sea otters rolling over and over after they eat. They are such beautiful creatures. Their little faces remind me of the ground hog that pops his head up across the road from where I live.

TC said...


It is fortunate for the ground hog that it does not have the densest fur of all creatures, for it is that gift that caused the sea otter to become the object of the mass hunting that brought the species very near to extinction.

In the late eighteenth century, traders who brought sea otter skins to market in Canton could get $100 apiece for them. To Chinese mandarins, sea otter coats were the ultimate in fashionable gear, and they were willing to pay, and of course where there is demand there is going to be supply. Traders from Boston risked sailing around the Horn to get the precious skins. To them it was a great business opportunity, Yankee ingenuity at work. They tricked the Northwest Coast natives into overhunting these sacred animals and selling off the skins for a few bits of copper, a button or a nail, which the Indians desired for use as gifts in their potlatch ritual. It is the saddest of stories.

nooshin azadi said...

such a beautiful poem!
i especially liked this line:

"like the vowels in the word"

a very clever and original image/simile/analogy!