Thursday, January 8, 2015
O Smits ... o Smits ... another New Year, another dip into Paradise, another long, slow, sweaty climb out on a hot Tweede Nuwejaar afternoon.
The Smitswinkel limelight this years belongs to the seal. We called her Solly, thinking she was a boy-seal. She lay forlornly on a bed of rotting kelp, a mat of seaweed thrown up by the Christmas tidal surge, the Summer Solstice, the New Moon Spring high. Maybe she’d been thrown up by that too.
“She’s come ashore to die,” we intoned wisely. “Most animals,” the scientist said, “die through being eaten. Not many get the chance to die quietly by themselves.”
Solly lay still for hours, a long, four metre slab of blue-grey blubber. When the tide went out she moved laboriously, painfully closer to the water. When it came back she humped herself slowly up the slippery kelp, away from the waves.
“Exhausted,” we said. “Dying.”
Dogs barked at her, were sent off by their owners. “Let her die in peace,” we intoned. “Get those mutts out of there.”
A small boy in a bright red vest watched her for hours. He sang to her, he begged her to slip back into the cooling sea. He danced on the edge of the rocks. He was sweet. Then he picked up a stone, as small boys will. “I’ll shout if he throws it,” I said. “She’s dying.”
He restrained himself. The scientist had to go home a day early. “I hope it will be quick,” he said. “Mercifully quick.”
Then came the news. One of the dozen or more veterinarians who attend upon Smits every New Year had spoken.
“She’s a Southern elephant seal,” he said. “Washed far from home in the Antarctic ocean. But she’s OK. They come ashore every year to moult. December/ January. Takes two or three weeks. When she’s moulted she’ll go home.”
I guess if you only changed your underwear once a year it would take you two or three weeks, too. I’d simply die.
The scores of vets are undoubtedly the reason why Smits annually presents more dogs than people. Only one of those in these pics is now pregnant, apparently, but there might be more we did not see.
And of course, there are a wonderful bunch of people, swimming, surfing, sailing, sandboarding, paddling, bucketing, spading .... this year a whole team of grown ups came down with full-size, real spades and tried to dig away the rotting kelp. It was a great diversion for all those New Years Day heads. It had absolutely no effect.
Smits, we love you.
Happy 2015 to all, hope it is a really good one for all of you.
–Kaartman, January 2015