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    Posted June 11, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Underwater photography

    Harbor Seal Pup Play at San Clemente Island


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Marla Matin used her Canon 7D with underwater housing and dual strobes to take this photo of a playful harbor seal pup in San Clemente Island, California.
    - taliaday, CNN iReport producer

    California possesses many amazing natural wonders, but the Channel Islands located off its southern coast are my favorite. The stark vegetation on its landmass starkly contradicts the teeming marine life in its surrounding waters. On a Memorial Day weekend trip on the dive boat Horizon, at San Clemente Island (the southernmost Channel Island), I was privileged to capture this image of a harbor seal pup.
    Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are commonly seen off the California coast. Usually when I see a harbor seal on a dive, however, they will pass by quickly once or twice, mocking my desire to get a decent photo of them. So I thought this was the case when I first encountered this little pup, at the edge of the kelp forest, 50 feet deep. As I patiently anticipated his return, my finger ready on the shutter release of the camera, I sensed a presence behind me. My intuition was right, as he was right there when I turned around, nibbling on the tips of my fins. He made eye contact with me and quickly darted off. I thought again, that’s the last I’ll see of him, but it turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful 30 minute experience.
    Endearingly curious and playful, my dive buddy and I watched this harbor seal pup race around the kelp, chase after a 300 pound Giant Sea Bass, and closely inspect our camera gear. Reluctantly we were forced to head back to the boat as the air in our tanks was getting low. The pup followed us back to within 20 feet of the boat. Even after the anchor was pulled and we drove away to our next dive site, we could see him following us in the boat’s wake.
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