A California woman was injured after encountering a Hawaiian monk seal and pup in waters off O‘ahu Sunday, July 24. Authorities say the incident was unprovoked.
Rocky has been at Kaimana Beach since giving birth to her latest offspring earlier this month. The incident occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m. about 150 feet offshore when the 60-year-old encountered the animals unaware they were in the water. She suffered lacerations to her face, back and arm.
In an interview, Monday, July 25, with DLNR, the woman and her husband recounted what happened. An officer from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, who also interviewed the couple, confirms their version of the events.
“Sunday morning the seals were at the far end of the beach near the Natatorium,” the victim’s husband noted. The baby seal went out of sight and apparently swam into the dilapidated former swimming pool inside the structure. “The mother woke up and was very agitated and was barking, clearly distressed by the absence of her pup.”
According to DLNR, Ocean safety lifeguards were not in their tower yet, and 10 swimmers, including the attack victim, went into the water with no seals visible on the beach or in the ocean. The woman’s husband was watching and videotaping from their nearby 12th-floor condominium.
The video, he provided, shows his wife swimming near the Natatorium with both seals appearing to return to the beach. Instead, they went back into the water and began swimming toward her, and approximately 30 seconds later the incident occurred.
“My wife had a swim cap on, and her head was in the water when both seals appeared. She could not hear 50 or so people on the beach screaming for swimmers to get out of the water,” the husband said. “She then stands up and hears the people screaming and waving at her. She starts swimming away from the seals.”
The husband thought his wife was going to die before he got down to the beach. When he finally made it to the shore, he said three rescuers, including one in an outrigger canoe, were bringing her to shore, while the seals were swimming toward them again.
“We’ve been in Hawai‘i for three weeks and saw the pup at Kaimana immediately after it was born,” the California man said. “We’ve read all the safe viewing signs and abide by them. These seals swam up behind her and she was not aware of them. In addition to her state of agitation from being separated from her pup, I believe all of the commotion on the beach likely added to her frustration.”
The victim said it was a terrifying experience.
“Neither of us could sleep last night,” she said. “Every time I closed my eyes, I was seeing the mother seal’s mouth.”
The victim’s husband visited with lifeguards Monday, in an effort to learn the identities of his wife’s rescuers so they could thank them.
“There is no one to blame here,” he added. “All my wife did was go swimming and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The California man said the same encounter nearly happened Monday morning as he watched from his condo he observed the pup go into the Natatorium and mom started barking for it around 8:10 a.m.