By Emma Reardon
My family were taking a walk along the stunning coastline of the Llyn peninsula. We’d set off from Morfa Nefyn to follow the route along the coast and around the rocky headland just beyond Porthdinllaen. Although we had downloaded a map from the National Trust’s website, we had no concerns about getting lost on-route, as there was a steady stream of walkers enjoying the early September sunshine under the 3 magnificent peaks of Yr Eifl.
As we approached the lifeboat station we heard an incredible sound. I have never heard anything quite like it before. I can only describe it as if someone had taught a herd of cows to sing tunefully! The sound was coming from the sea and as we approached the cliff edge, the singers became evident. There was a group of grey seals basking on the rocks, just offshore. Some were semi-submerged in the sea, lazing part in and part out of the water; some were sprawled majestically across the rocks on full display. Their voices were joined together in song and they were a chorus rather than individuals taking their turn to sing and respond.
This was one of those wonderful shared experiences where families; lone ramblers; dog walkers and their furry friends; all stood together watching and listening in awe. I’ve heard tales of sirens singing from the rocks to lure sailors off their course to shipwreck on the rocks, and there was certainly something mystifying and enchanting about this experience. I’ve seen individual seals many times off the west coast and I’ve got close to groups of seals whilst on boat trips around the Welsh islands (interestingly, the collective nouns for seals includes ‘herd’ – maybe they are singing cows after all? And also ‘bob’, ‘pod’ or ‘rookery’ according to Wikipedia) but I’d never heard them singing like mermaids on the rocks until that day in September 2017.