Behold! A harbor seal.
Now, as you might gather from the word “harbor” in their name, these seals are littoral. Wikipedia states that they are found in Arctic/temperate coastal areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
I’ve been reading Lewis and Clark’s journals recently. Lewis writes of seeing some animals he thought were sea lions just below “the great Falls of the Columbia [River]” in late 1805. Those falls are now understood to have been Wy-am, or Celilo Falls, once one of the largest waterfall systems in North America. In its heyday, it was a great gathering-place and favorite fishing spot of the Pacific Northwest tribes and a huge spawning ground for salmon. The sea lions that Meriwether Lewis mistakenly thought he saw swimming below the falls are now believed by historians to have been harbor seals, come upriver from the coast.
Just so you know, Celilo Falls was 186 miles from the Pacific Ocean, as the Columbia River flows. Quite a haul. Yet it seems that harbor seals frequently venture into bays and estuaries, and even voyage up rivers in search of food. Such a salmon-spawning heaven as Wy-am must’ve held an irresistible attraction for these blubbery little guys in the early 19th century. Lewis wasn’t far off the mark about sea lions, either—both seals and sea lions have historically swum up the Columbia River as far as the Dalles and Celilo Falls in search of salmon. Nowadays they can only make it about 140 miles upstream, since Bonneville Dam blocks their path. And it wouldn’t matter even if they could still swim the whole 186 miles, because Celilo Falls disappeared in 1957—submerged by the construction of the Dalles Dam.
That makes me just a little bit sad.
But anyway, that’s the most interesting historical fact I know off the top of my head. Lewis and Clark saw harbor seals swimming around at the base of Wy-am, 186 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. Wow. Let’s hear it for those intrepid pinnipeds!