Rocking on the sea, wrapped in kelp, sea otters float on their backs. They raise a flipper, nuzzle, and ride the rollers. They twine kelp around their bodies to stay in one place.
Sandra and I scanned the golden brown kelp beds waving in the rolling waves of an aquamarine Pacific ocean of the Big Sur Coast with binoculars and at last spotted the four otters.
Imagine if we looked down on a great forest and on the very tops, we saw animals as big as otters in hammocks of branches, gently blowing in the wind and watching the world go by. That’s what it’s like if you think about kelp as a forest.
The kelp forests extend a hundred feet or more to anchor firmly in the ocean floor. Their roots are called holdfasts that serve as nurseries for spiny lobsters and other sea creatures. From top to bottom, the kelp blades offer perches for fish just like tree limbs give birds a roosting place. More than 1000 species of plants and animals inhabit their fronds and blades. The swaying motion of kelp slows the motion of the sea.
As a lover of ancient forests and the wildlife they harbor, I’m fascinated by kelp and mesmerized by sea otters. Far to the north when I walked in reverence below the 1000-year-old Redwoods, I looked up as far as I could toward their treetops in awe.There, 100 meters above me, the canopy supports a variety of plant life that in turn nurtures cloud salamanders, yellow-cheeked chipmunks, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and even fishers.
Viewing kelp forests in the sea from a high vista point on Big Sur, I feel my life turned upside down. I’m high in the sky overlooking a canopy where I can only see the treetops and not the roots far below.
When feeling topsy turvy, it takes a creature like a sea otter to guide me gently into strange waters where gray whales spout, northern elephant seals dive to great depths chasing bioluminescent shrimp, and great white sharks pursue their prey.
Sea otters play, roll, and clap flippers.They’re all light, fun, and frolic–or so it seems from our closeup views at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They seem to say, “Come with us. We’ll teach you the art of underwater tango and you’ll never want to touch land again.”
Yes, teach me and I’ll follow. I’ll even munch a crab with you if you show me how to rock on the waves on a kelp bed in an oceanic lullaby.