Arrfff! Arrfff!”This was the sound of a large gray seal as it poked its head out of the water and looked in my direction with unabashed interest. Now, I love seals as much as anyone and relish my regular encounters with them while I’m rowing on the river near my home in South Devon, England. But this was different. This seal was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, eight miles off Land’s End, and I, rather than being safely ensconced aboard my skiff, was bobbing about in the water in a semi-inflated dry suit, just a few feet away from it. And, was it my imagination, or was this seal much, much bigger than the ones back home?After a few moments’ contemplation, the seal sighed and slipped under the water again. A feeling of relief was quickly followed by unease at the thought that this huge creature was now swimming somewhere beneath me and I had no way of knowing where it was or what it was going to do next. Even though I knew a seal was highly unlikely to hurt me, my instincts told me a different story. So I crashed about and made what I thought were suitably macho seal noises.

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