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May 16, 2012

Dead seals

BY: Carlos Suárez


© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


A normal day starts in the expedition. We prepare our equipment to dive near a small islet to the south of the Aland Islands. After breakfast, we lower the two dinghies onto the water and load all the materials. One of the high points of this immersion is a small colony of grey seals. Generally, these animals avoid underwater photographers and flee when they see us.

Nothing prepared us for what we found on the rocky seabed near this islet. At least a dozen dead seals, about twenty metres away from each other. Most of them seemed to be six months old or so. While we took samples, our hearts broke as we found one corpse after another. However, when we took a closer look, they displayed no external signs of violence, and so for the time being we don’t know what the cause of this high mortality is,

Before the dive is over, I go towards the seal colony on the islet shore. I can see some adult specimens underwater. Apparently they are in good health and show no signs of disease or intoxication.

Another part of the investigation starts now: finding the reason for this high mortality rate among young specimens in this grey seal colony. But that is not my job. My job is to document such scenes as those that appear in the photographs that accompany this diary. Even if it is painful at times.