Newfoundland Travel Blog - Harp Seals at Marine Lab

Updated: Jan 27

Many of us spend years "chasing the dream" in our 9 to 5 jobs. This was certainly the case for me but, after my retirement, I saw that life had more possibilities than previously imagined. As a lover of nature and owner of a small vacation rental in Pouch Cove, I often explore the outdoors, take photos, and share my experiences with guests in order to help them plan their vacation. I really enjoy visiting Marine Lab, and especially the seal tanks, to watch the three resident harp seals from the outdoor observation platform. I'd like to invite you to meet Tyler (Dad), Babette (Mom), and Deanne (Daughter) and to hear their story.

Tyler, a male harp seal, sits upright in his pool at Marine Lab, Newfoundland.
Tyler, male harp seal at Marine Lab, Newfoundland.

This is Tyler, currently in his 30's, the upper end of the life expectancy of 30 years for harp seals living in the wild. Tyler has been in captivity ever since his birth in 1990. He has a genetic fur discoloration known as "smutty" which conceals the harp markings that are normally visible and distinctive for harp seals. Interestingly, this rare discoloration is found only in males. #seal, #harpseal, #marinelab, #tourismNL, #destinationstjohns

Female harp seal stretching and yawning while sunning herself on a wooden platform beside her pool at Marine Lab.
Female harp seal at Marine Lab, Newfoundland.

Tyler's partner is Babette, the eldest of the three harp seals at the Marine Lab, and believed to be in her late 30's. "Babs", as she is affectionately called, was the first harp seal in the world to give birth to a live offspring in captivity. She clearly demonstrates the characteristic dark saddlebag markings along her side. On the day that this photo was taken, her mood was relaxed as she stretched and yawned atop the wooden platform outside her tank while soaking up some sun. #harpseal, #mammal, #wildlife, #seamammal

Deane, daughter of Tyler and Babette, stretches as she awakens while sunning on wooden platform beside her pool at Marine Lab.
Deane, daughter of Tyler and Babette, at Marine Lab.

Finally, let's meet Deane. She is the daughter of Tyler and "Babs" and was born in '02. Like her mom, Deane was enjoying the sun and relaxing on deck during my visit to Marine Lab on the day on which this picture was taken, #seawildlife, #marinelab, #harpseal

Harp seal resting on a wooden platform at Marine Lab, its powerful flippers clearly visible.
Mature Harp seal at Marine Lab, Newfoundland Ocean Science Centre.

Harp seals reach sexual maturity at about 4-6 years of age. During mating and molting season, they gather in huge numbers on the ice. Courtship is mainly through vocalizations, blowing bubbles, gestures, and with the males chasing the females on the ice. Females are pregnant for 7 1/2 months and give birth to one live pup. In the wild, the mother tries to secure strong pack ice on which to birth so as to give her pup the best chance of survival. Despite the fact that pups can not swim or find their own food source until about 7 weeks of age, the mother nurses her young for only about 12 days before abandoning it to fend for itself.

Deane, a female harp seal in captivity at Marine Lab, stretching on a wooden platform beside her pool.
Deane stretching on a wooden platform beside her pool at Marine Lab.

This picture of Deane clearly shows her short, thick clawed, front flippers. Harp seals use their powerful front flippers for directional changes when swimming. The sleeker back flipper can be opened into a fan shape and is used for diving and propelling through water. Because of their shape and structure, seals are quite awkward and slow moving when out of the water. #harpseal, #marinelab, #mammals, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #nature

Babette, a female harp seal in captivity at Marine Lab, appears to wink, partially obstructed from view by a circular support.
Babette, a female harp seal in captivity at Marine Lab, appears to wink as her picture is taken.

Babette is being coy in this pose, peaking out from behind a circular support. She appears to be winking and her heart-shaped nose just adds to the sentiment of the moment. Here you can see her long whiskers (called vibrissae), which are used to detect food when swimming. A harp seal's favourite foods are fish and crustaceans. #sealdiet

A close up photo of Tyler, the male harp seal at Marine Lab, clearly shows his ear flap as he enjoys the soothing rays of the summer sun..
In this closeup photo of Tyler, his ear flap is clearly visible.

Did you know that Harp seals do not have ear flaps but, instead, ear slits which are designed to help them hear well under water. They can open and close the flaps (and their nostrils) when diving to prevent water from entering these openings. Harp seals seem to prefer shallow water but can dive up to over 1300 feet and stay under water for up to 15 minutes at a time. #seal

Touch tank at Marine Lab in Newfoundland has clams, sea urchins, crab, starfish, and more.
Touch tank at Marine Lab, Newfoundland, has clams, sea urchins, crab, starfish, and more.

Not to be overlooked, during the summer season, Marine Lab has an outdoor touch tank which welcomes visitors to view and touch some ocean species that inhabit our waters. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the touch tank's operations had been modified so it is best to check the status of the touch tank services before visiting. #crab, #seaurcin, #starfish, #seacucumber, #mussel, #clam

A distant horizon, vast expanse of ocean and a mountainous terrain characterize the landscape at Marine Lab, Newfoundland.
A vast expanse of ocean and a mountainous terrain characterize the landscape at Marine Lab, Newfoundland.

While at Marine Lab, take a look around to appreciate the beautiful natural experiences at your fingertips and imagine the unseen world that lives under the sea. #sea, #ocean, #marinelab, #coast, #horizon

Marine Lab, an ocean science research centre, is located on a grassy bank on the coast of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, NL.
Marine Lab, Ocean Science Centre, Newfoundland

I'm sure you will agree that Marine Lab is a delightful experience to include in your Newfoundland travel itinerary. Please follow my Newfoundland Travel Blog to see my work on some other popular tourist attractions in eastern Newfoundland. I'd be delighted to hear from you so why not contact me today?


Sad update ... Dec 22 '21, Babette died after a long life. She will be sadly missed
















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