Steller sea lions are magnificent beasts, second in size only to walruses and elephant seals among pinnipeds. They may look cute but they are massive and can be dangerous to dive with, as Steve Backshall, presenter of BBC Earth’s Deadly 60 series, discovered.
With each individual being as big as a car, the only predators of Steller sea lions are killer whales and sharks. Apart from the fact that they hunt in groups, they have a reputation for playing with divers to scare them away. This was one dive where the team got out of the water as soon as they were done filming: it was too risky to stay in longer.
Deadly 60 director James had this to say: “As filming went on it became more and more intimidating; one sea lion would distract you, blowing bubbles in your face, while another grabbed your fins from behind and gave them a good yank. At one point, a young male hovered above Steve in his blind spot and fastened a mouth the size of a lion’s on to the top of his head.
“I had a nightmare premonition of it biting through his skull, but it seemed to have had enough sport and shot off. It was just like being bullied by a gang of underwater thugs, they really seemed to enjoy it.”
Watch this YouTube video to see a part of their experience.