Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Rogue Sea Lion Menacing San Francisco"

We interrupt our regular political-and-Seahawks-based diatribe to bring you this terrifying front-page story from today's San Francisco Chronicle, with added commentary by yours truly.

Rogue sea lion in S.F. menaces swimmers Marauding mammal bites at least 14, chases 10 from Aquatic Park Lagoon

Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

A California sea lion lurking in San Francisco's Aquatic Park Lagoon is terrorizing swimmers, biting at least 14 on the legs and chasing 10 others out of the water this week.

No one has been seriously hurt, but the surprised victims have been advised by Marine Mammal Center staff to take antibiotics to ward off infection. San Francisco Department of Public Health physicians aren't recommending rabies shots.

Biologists are at a loss to explain the eccentric behavior that has forced the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park to close the lagoon to swimmers until the marauding mammal moves on. Experts say the animal could be protecting his harem of mates or might have brain damage from toxic algae.

Bit of background: San Francisco's "Aquatic Park Lagoon" is a small semi-circle of water on the north side of the bay that people swim in regularly (obviously, as evidenced by the sea lion attacks). I have long suspected, and experts have now confirmed, that the lagoon is festering with toxic algae that causes brain damage.

The creature from the Aquatic Park Lagoon hangs about the shore, keeping an eye out for swimmers. When they go into the water, it moves under them, first brushing their legs. Then the nipping and biting start.

Celeste McMullin, one of the swimmers bitten Monday, saw the sea lion near the shore before her swim but didn't think much of it.

"I was swimming along, and I felt a brush under my feet. And I thought, 'These feel like whiskers.' So I stopped, and the animal popped up. He/she looked at me.''

[And thought, "First I must nip, then -- I will bite! OH, how my brain has been ravaged by toxix algae."]

McMullin, an Oakland resident and member of the Dolphin Club swim group, had a decision to make -- keep on swimming or go to shore.

"I decided I'd head to shore. Then it started bumping and biting in earnest."

Not just nipping and biting, but bumping too! Oh, the horror, the horror.

McMullin, who was about a quarter of a mile from the shore, tried to climb onto a nearby boat but couldn't get over a rail. When she plopped back into the water, the sea lion was waiting for her.

"I was really scared,'' she said.

With nobody around to help her, McMullin swam as fast as she could back to shore, the sea lion biting her all the way. She said she kept yelling "Stop it," as if that would do any good.

In the original version of this paragraph, the journalist wrote "McMullin kept yelling 'Stop it' like a giant dipshit, because sea lions don't speak English."

When she got out of the water, blood running down her leg, a fellow swimmer said he had watched the surprising scene from shore. McMullin had six bites: two puncture wounds and four cuts.

Nice way to help out, fellow swimmer.

She went to California Pacific Medical Center, where a second Dolphin Club member, Andy Stone, came in with a bite on his foot.

"The nurses were laughing. Everyone was laughing. I was laughing," McMullin said.

"Then, everyone started screaming -- the sea lions were attacking the Medical Center! They were...they were....they were eating the children. Blood everywhere. I will never laugh again."

A third Dolphin Club member, Omar Thompson, had been bitten on the back of the leg earlier Monday. Another, John Mervin, was bumped by the sea lion that same day, club officials said.

"I've been swimming here for 70 years almost, and nothing like this has happened before,'' said Lou Marcelli, the commodore of the Dolphin Club, which is based at Aquatic Park.

Uh, you don't say, "Commodore."

Nobody saw the sea lion Tuesday.

On Wednesday, two more swimmers from the club got nipped -- Andy Pinetti was bitten on his middle toe and Don Reid on the back of his calf.

NOTE TO DOLPHIN CLUB: FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE TO SWIM. And change your name to the "Nipped by Sea Lions" club.

Wayne Black manages the South End Rowing Club, a 136-year-old nonprofit group for people who like to swim and row in the bay. He came to work Wednesday and heard stories about "people getting bitten.''

" 'What's biting them?' I said. I didn't think of a sea lion.''

Instead, said Black, he imagined a large, Nessy like sea monster with giant breasts and six-foot long tusks.

Nine members of his club were bitten Wednesday morning, he said.

NINE? NINE? Where is the "Commodore"'s leadership? Find a f***cking pool!

"Not only do the swimmers have to deal with the cold water, but they have to deal with this sea lion? Only at the South End Rowing Club,'' Black said.

The South End Rowing Club then declared that the Dolphin Club was a bunch of sea urchins, and challenged them to a swim-off.

He heard about two sisters and a friend who were bitten Wednesday.

"One of the sisters got bitten two times, once in the thigh and once in the calf. The sea lion followed her out of the water and then bit her again. They couldn't get out of the water fast enough. Now one of them is at the point where she's scared to go back swimming.''

Do you know why? Because, from an evolutionary standpoint, we are supposed to adapt and learn to avoid injury from other mammals. This sister is apparently the only member of the swim club not affected by toxic algae.

At the Marine Mammal Center, veterinarian Frances Gulland said she can't say for sure what's wrong with the animal.

"I can only guess that something's wrong with its brain,'' Gulland said. Poisoning from toxic algae can damage the brain, she said.

Yes, we now have abundant evidence of that.

Gulland advises swimmers to stay out of the water until the animal disappears.

"The migration has started, and the animals are moving north to Washington state and Oregon," she said.

The animal will either move or die, she said.


Stan Minasian, director of the Animal Fund, a nonprofit group dedicated to animal welfare issues, said he has seen male sea lions become aggressive when they think females are threatened.

"That's nothing unusual when you're swimming near females, and the males get ticked off,'' Minasian said.

He's dived and filmed for more than 30 years and has underwater film of a sea lion ripping the lens shade off of a camera to protect his harem and his turf.

Nice work, sea lion! Filmed being a bad ass, then go home and hump your harem. Not a bad life at all --- assuming no toxic algae to the brain, of course.

Kimo Fouts, a scuba diver and spear fisherman for many years off the Sonoma County coast, said sea lion encounters are commonplace.

"It never gets reported. Seeing a sea lion in the water is as reliable as getting wet,'' he said.

"They sneak up behind you and nip at you. They're annoyed, but they're not trying to fight.''

Annoyed that humans are in the ocean? Selfish motherf**king sea lions.

Two men bumped by the sea lion Wednesday morning think their wetsuits could have saved them from bites.

Craig Scibetta and Brett Ladove, who swim at Aquatic Park with the Water World Swim Club out of Corte Madera, also saw the sea lion near the beach.

Wait, a THIRD freakin' swim club? Seriously? We need three swim clubs for this little lagoon?

The animal bumped them, then looked at them from a distance of 3 feet. Then he zoomed by.
At 100 yards out, they thought they'd better go back.

"All the way, he kept bumping us,'' Scibetta said. "He kind of herded us out of the water.''

Then attacked him on shore and drank his blood from the skull of Kimo Fouts.


Anonymous Nic said...

Happy Birthday Baby!


10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy happy birthday son. I am so sad Nicki did not want to hear the brave tale of how you had to be intubated and all that. It was thrilling, it really was!

Love you so much. Stay out of the water. Mammy

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Nic said...

I do want to hear the tale of Ben's birth! I was elbow deep in meatballs when you called. I was actually asking him all about it the night before. Love Nic xxx

9:23 AM  
Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

hillarious! thanks for that post.

1:43 PM  

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