Seals, Isle of Shoals, Maine and New Hampshire

When I’m not taking photos, I love to scuba dive. It’s a great sport that takes us to amazing places where we often encounter some incredible things underwater. Recently, we took a trip to the Isle of Shoals, which is a small group of islands that span the border of Maine and New Hampshire in the Gulf of Maine. These islands are a summer haven for seals who haul out onto the rocky shores and rest – especially on Duck Island on the northern part of the chain.

We’ve visited Duck Island two years in a row, and we’ve had a lot of different experiences diving at this location. We usually see seals on most dives, but they’re almost always curious from a distance. Get too close, and then they’ll turn and swim away into the gloom. Sometimes they’ll get close from behind and follow us along our dive, occasionally taking a nibble at our fins. If either of us looks back, they’ll swim off.

But every few dives you’ll encounter a seal that just wants to play. They’re usually juveniles, and they have no fear about getting close – really close! This little seal, which is either a harbor seal or a grey seal, was incredibly curious about us, our fins, drysuits, and everything else in the water. When we got boring, it would go play with the nearby lobster trap, ropes, and seaweed. We hung out in the same spot (about 30 feet deep) for almost an hour, watching it come and go along with several other bigger seals. When it finally swam off, we ended our dive with happy memories and a GoPro full of video.

Beyond the seals, the Isle of Shoals is gorgeous and a must see location for any diver visiting New England. The sea floor is covered in beautiful green and red kelp, lobsters, crabs, and fish. The rocky floor is fascinating, creating wonderful structures that are as interesting as any reef. If you’re interested in doing this dive, I recommend reaching out to Portsmouth Scuba about availability. They charter boats most weekends in the summer, but spots do sell out fast.

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