Thursday, July 5, 2018

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 358

Oregon Sea Lion Caves

On the return trip home from the Redwood National & State Parks we stopped at the Sea Lion Caves located about 11 miles north of Florence, Oregon.   This unused postcard has a photo by Michael Anderson and was published by Greatland Classics Series Co., Inc.  It has the identifying code 79-08DC at the lower left on the reverse. 

When we purchased the postcard in the gift shop we also got a small booklet, “Sea Lion Caves,” explaining the history of the caves and providing information about some of the surrounding area.  According to the book, in 1880 a Captain William Cox, in a small boat, was supposedly the first person to enter the caves. He visited the caves several times and eventually bought the land containing the caves in 1887 from the State of Oregon.  Then he and his heirs retained ownership until a local developer, R.E. Clanton, acquired the land in 1927 with the intention of establishing a business and opening the caves to the public.  Two other local residents, J.G. Houghton and J.E. Jacobson, originally joined Clanton but that partnership was dissolved and R.A. Saubert replaced Clanton. 

Multi-generations of these three families owned and managed the caves until 2006 when the Houghton’s sold their interests to the Jacobsen and Saubert families who continue to operate the facility.  Until a high-speed elevator was installed in 1961 access to the caves was by trail partway down the cliff and then stairs. The goal of the owners, managers and staff at the Sea Lion Caves is to preserve the ecosystem while making it accessible for everyone.  The elevator descends 208 feet in slightly less than one minute.  

The Steller sea lions are named for a noted German naturalist, Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746), who traveled with Vitus Bearing in 1731 to Alaska and was the first to observe, study and classify them.  An interesting trivia fact, sea lions have ears and earflaps that close when the animal goes under water.  Seals, much smaller animals, do not have earflaps.  Steller sea lions are very large mammals; the mature bulls can be 16 feet long and weigh as much as 2500 pounds.  The females are smaller; about 8 or 9 feet long and weigh about 600 to 800 pounds.  The babies called pups can be 50 pounds at birth!  

They apparently enjoy each others company as the rocks were large enough for the group to be more spread out but they were bunched together, almost on top of one another on just one section.  Perhaps this is just one especially large harem?  The harem size for one bull averages about 15 to 30 cows.  Because a bull could lose some of his wives during the season to another bull he might not leave the rookery for as long as 3 months. 

As the picture illustrates, the sea lions were some distance from us, nevertheless we certainly could hear and smell them!

They have a thick hide and coarse hair and most we saw were either a tawny golden color or a warm brown color.  Their diet consists mainly of bottom fish, squid, octopus, sardines, herring, and Lamprey Eel.

These two bulls were somewhat apart from the other group.  They were growling and lunging at one another even though there were no females near.

The entry to the caves is through the building seen in the center of the card.  Since we were visiting during mating season the sea lions were outside on the rocks called the rookery.  We walked down the path to the sea lion lookout and took a few photos.  Then we walked back up the path and took the other pathway to the elevator and the caves level below.  With the main cave area about 2 acres and the ceiling about 125 feet above water this sea cave system is one of the largest in the United States.  It is possible to look through a grated natural opening into the rocky area where the sea rushes in and where the sea lions congregate during other times of the year.  In the winter about 200 or more sea lions will inhabit the caves.  The card also shows stairs going to the original north entrance viewpoint, the opening where Captain Cox entered.  From there the Heceta Head lighthouse can be seen.  

 The view looking through the grating at the area where more than 200 sea lions will spend the winter

 View from the top of the stairs shown at the right on the postcard.  The Heceta lighthouse can just be seen on the point across the sea.

A zoom in view of the lighthouse

There is an admission fee for the sea lion caves but the experience of seeing the sea lions in their natural habitat was well worth the fee.

For additional information, see:
“Sea Lions” a publication of the Sea Lion Caves and

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