Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Sea Lion

The following adventure occurred 63 years ago in the waters of Deep Cove, Vancouver Island. The Island’s beautiful seaside is home to some large and unusual marine creatures that lurk and wait for their prey…. A young boy of 12 years old witnessed a scary scenario which happened before his eyes. This is his story.

I was 12 years old when my uncle gave me a wonderful clinker built boat with a Briggs and Stratton engine. He gave this to me as I was the only one who was able to start it, not because I was a good mechanic. I loved the boat so much I would keep cranking the motor until it started, even if it took all morning. The boat was kept at a little waterfront cottage which my uncle had purchased in the 1930's, a summer place he had named ‘Pneumonia Manor’. Everything froze up during winter time, even with the stove going, especially when the north wind blew in.

I spent many hours in that boat and saw many wonderful things. One amazing experience occurred in Satellite Channel off of Deep Cove, Vancouver Island. I was in the channel and ready to turn into Deep Cove when I heard a loud roar which came from about fifty feet on my starboard side. I looked over and saw a huge sea lion with an incredibly large octopus wrapped around his head. I believe the sound which I heard was the sea lion expelling air and taking more in. The sea lion shook his head violently and the octopus’s free tentacles flailed high in the air. The sea lion then dove and resurfaced a couple of minutes later, repeating his violent shaking and sucking in of more air. This happened three times, then I did not see them again. The sea lion probably pulled the octopus off the rocks and received more than he bargained for. When the sea lion shook his head I noticed that a couple of the octopus’s extended tentacles appeared to be as long as my 16 ft. boat. I thought I had seen a monster until I recently read that Pacific octopus can grow up to 32ft. across and some have claimed as long as 38ft.

It was a powerful experience for me so I thought it would be a good idea to document it. I once mentioned this story to a carver I knew and asked if he would create a carving with the sea creatures. He seemed keen on the idea but after a few years of waiting, I gave up and decided I would give it a try myself. I decided to make a carving tool fashioned after the native crooked knife. I carved the sea lion but was not sure how to carve the octopus so I used some inlay to symbolize the creature.

I have included two photos of native crooked knives that are beautifully made of horn and steel. One depicts a canoe with a line attached to a sea serpent. The other shows great skill from a craftsman. The silver ferrule has been hammer-shrunk over the horn in a very complicated manner.

It is interesting that one day while travelling on the Mill Bay ferry from Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island, I saw a creature identical to the one in the carving. It had a long neck protruding about three feet above the water and travelled with enough speed for the neck to create a wake. In a minute he submerged and was out of sight.

Native North American Crooked Knife

Crooked Knife from Telegraph Creek, British Columbia

Image: WikiMedia Commons

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