So You Want to Dive with Steller Sea Lions? This is What You Can Look Forward To.

By August 3, 2020August 23rd, 2020Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

I’ve spent a lot of time diving with sea lions and love it.  There is no bad sea lion dive (with one exception which I’ll get to at the end).  I have more photographs of them than I need, but I will keep diving with and photographing sea lions until I can’t do it any longer.  California sea lions, Galapagos sea lions and South American sea lions are playful, reasonably large and typically inquisitive.  But the most intense sea lion diving experience I have had, by far, is with Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus).  I’ve made a few trips to Hornby Island in winter to see them and have come home with images I am pretty happy with.  Imagine the size of a full grown male California sea lion — that’s roughly what a juvenile Steller sea lion is like.   Now imagine five to 15 of them pulling on your gear in all directions, bumping and pushing, testing the thickness of your wetsuit hood or wrist seals with their teeth, and twisting your strobes in various directions.  It’s incredible fun but can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated, and even the most experienced Steller sea lion diver has to bail out at times when the numbers and aggressiveness of the sea lions is too much.  Below are some images of a few of my diving friends with Steller sea lions, all at Hornby Island, in cold winter water.  If it looks like fun to you give it a try.  But be warned, this is no Los Islotes or Santa Barbara Island.  Those are puppies compared to what you will find at Hornby Island.  Cheers, and thanks for looking!

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36118
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36120
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36129
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 32684
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36128
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36130
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36133
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 32790
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36087
Species: Steller sea lIon, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36123
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36127
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36404
Species: Steller Sea Lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller Sea Lion Mouth My Hand and Dive Computer, a combination of curiosity and playfulness, Hornby Island, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lion Mouth My Hand and Dive Computer, a combination of curiosity and playfulness, Hornby Island, Canada.
Image ID: 32792
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36131
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus, Norris Rocks

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36132
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater,  underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

SCUBA Diver and Steller Sea Lions Underwater, underwater photographer, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Image ID: 36134
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus

Most of the above images are of Mike Perdue, Celia Kujala and Mike Williams, photographers who have spent a lot of time with Steller sea lions and are quite comfortable with the dynamics at Hornby Island. (Richard Salas orchestrated all the diving in Canada I have done but for some reason I never see him on dives and don’t have a single image of him with Stellers. Have to fix that next time.)  Mike Perdue in particular has spent years and hundreds of hours in the water with Stellers, and has some of the best photos of them in the world.  In January he made the below image of me.  One thing that is not apparent in the image is that my dry suit was full of water, and it was damn cold (mid-40s).  About 15 minutes into the dive, I noticed a curious and bold juvenile mouthing my wrist.  This is normal, they do it constantly.  However, a few minutes later I began to feel the awful sensation of cold water in my arm, and eventually my shoulder and then my body.  Yup, the little guy had torn the wrist seal on my dry suit.  The dive was so excellent that I figured I should just man up and keep diving in spite of my chattering teeth and numb forearms. At the end of the hour I found myself near Mike in only 15′ of water, with a great group of sea lions mobbing both of us, and I made several of the above circular images of him then.  He took the below shot.  I am glad I stayed in the water in spite of my now-full drysuit since, of the few images people have taken of me underwater, this is by far my favorite as it captures what it really means to dive with sea lions.  Thanks Mike!

Steller Sea Lion and Diver, Image Copyright Mike Perdue