Diver Gets The Adventure Of A Lifetime After A Seal Grabs His Hand

Animals | 9/12/19

People who scuba dive tend to be the kind of folks who are curious about the world and all the various creatures that inhabit it. After all, going deep under the ocean exposes one to a lot of unusual flora and fauna that you don’t often see on dry land. In some circumstances, fortunate divers are even given the chance to have some pretty amazing encounters with sea critters. That was exactly the case for the diver you’re about to read about. We’re lucky that his friend had a camera and could capture this amazing interaction for us!

Nothing Out Of The Ordinary

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YouTube
YouTube

Two experienced divers were about to have the scuba thrill of a lifetime but had no idea as they headed out for the day. They were at the Isles of Scilly, located off the coast of Cornwall, in southwest England.

The archipelago is a very popular tourist destination thanks to its gorgeous beaches and lush fauna such as colorful daffodils. These divers were here to explore the area’s natural beauty under the surface, though.

Under The Surface

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English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images
English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Gary Grayson hails from Worsley, England. He and his friend are experienced scuba divers and they wanted to explore the Isles of Scilly on this fateful day. The region is a favorite site for divers in England because of its beauty.

Another reason the Isles are visited by so many divers is that there are plenty of shipwrecks below the surface due to the harsh shorelines and dangerous weather conditions.

Well, Hello!

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YouTube
YouTube

Although they might have assumed that a shipwreck would be their most exciting find of the day, Gary and his diving buddy were in for much more adventure than that. Yes, the area’s gorgeous plant life was certainly eye-catching but nothing that would actually stop them in their tracks.

No, it was the sudden appearance of two grey seals that surprised the friends so much! They seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Seals Aren’t Always Friendly

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Andrew Bunday/Flickr
Andrew Bunday/Flickr

As any experienced diver will tell you, it’s best not to disturb wild animals you might encounter. Many times, these interactions go south rapidly, with the human on the losing end of the deal.

Gary and his friend knew to remain as calm as possible as they were approached by the seals. Although the animals can be playful, they are also known to become aggressive toward people in certain situations.

Keeping Their Nerves Calm

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Andrew Bunday/Flickr
Andrew Bunday/Flickr

Two grey seals were heading right toward the diving friends. Gary and his companion, though excited, remained as calm as they could. They did not want to be viewed as threatening or aggressive.

However, they did want to capture their exciting encounter on film so brought out their special underwater camera and kept it rolling. What would happen next? Whatever it was, they’d have a record of it to share with others.

Nature Is Unpredictable

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star5112/Flickr
star5112/Flickr

The ocean is the earth’s largest ecosystem, which means it is full of different species. Some are more familiar than others, but any time someone ventures into the ocean’s depths, they never know what they might encounter.

Even though Gary Grayson was an experienced underwater videographer, he was completely clueless about the situation he was about to find himself in. He could never have predicted what the seals were going to do soon!

Gary’s Footage Went Viral Later

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YouTube
YouTube

Although he had absolutely no idea about this at the time of the dive in the Isles of Scilly, the video footage Gary was taking would end up being seen by millions of people on the popular video site YouTube.

As he filmed, the seals drew closer and closer to Gary and his friend. In fact, Gary’s famous video begins with a seal in the shot, not far from the camera!

The Seals Appeared To Be Young

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YouTube
YouTube

As the seals got closer and Gary was able to get a better look at them, he and his friend realized that they were just pups! Gary and his diving buddy knew then that it was even more important to remain still and calm.

Seals this young might not have had any human encounters yet, and they were bound to be extra skittish around people for this reason. The divers wanted the seals to stick around for a while, not swim away in fear! So they remained calm.

The Seals Got More Comfortable With The Divers

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YouTube
YouTube

Their patience and calm demeanors paid off. It wasn’t too much longer before the seals got even closer. They seemed curious about the divers and even started circling them!

Seals are full of personality and their playfulness was on full display before Gary’s eyes. Soon, they were actually going to interact with the divers, which no one could have ever predicted. What was going to happen next? You’ll find out soon.

A Brand New Experience

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Although the seals were currently acting very playful, Gary and his friend were much too knowledgeable to let their guards down. At any moment, a wild animal can change its demeanor and become aggressive.

And even though Gary and his pal had plenty of diving experience, they had never been in a situation quite like this. Both men were cautious and wanted to stay safe in case things went south with the seals.

Curious Like Puppy Dogs

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YouTube
YouTube

The more the seals circled Gary and the other diver, the more relaxed and comfortable they seemed. They were acting as if they were curious about the divers and wanted more information about them.

Gary and his friend were relieved that the encounter was heading in a positive direction, and couldn’t help but notice that the seals looked and acted just like “water dogs,” even with their puppy-dog eyes and adorable whiskers.

Couldn’t Believe Their Luck

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YouTube
YouTube

Even as experienced as they were, the two divers could not believe the situation that was playing out before them. The seals were up close and personal, and had really seemed to warm up to the humans a lot quicker than wild seals normally would.

This is not an experience that most people get to have, and Gary and his friend were grateful for this amazing moment. There was something odd going on, however.

Making Friends With The Seals

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YouTube
YouTube

Now, the seals got even closer to the divers and actually began to interact! This was practically unheard of among wild seals and humans who had just recently come into contact.

One of the seals began to nudge Gary and reaching out with a flipper. It was almost like he wanted to try to hold hands with the diver! Not one to be rude, Gary reached out and shook the seal’s fin.

What Would Happen Next?

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YouTube
YouTube

Now that they had “shaken” on their new friendship, Gary felt even more excited about meeting his new underwater buddy. The seal even held onto Gary’s arm with its flippers. Gary and his friend decided that letting the seals take the lead here would be the wisest course of action.

As Gary remained still and calm, the seal rubbed its head and neck on him. Now, this was not normal behavior…

Out Of The Ordinary

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Interactions between humans and wildlife do not usually go the way that this seal encounter was going for Gary and his diver friend. It usually takes days of interaction and trust-building before a wild seal would interact in such a close way with a human.

Gary and his buddy had recognized right off the bat that the seals were acting in an odd fashion by even approaching the men to begin with. This is why they had the camera on.

Was The Seal Being Aggressive?

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YouTube
YouTube

Now, normally, a seal that intentionally got so close to a human would be viewed as acting aggressively. Fortunately, Gary and his friend knew this and had played it safe. With their calm and reassuring demeanors, the seals had felt super safe and let their guards down, even becoming playful!

The other seal wasn’t quite as forward, preferring to hang back a bit and watch the action. Perhaps it was a little more leery of the humans.

What An Experience!

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Arterra/UIG via Getty Images
Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

Underwater, seals are completely graceful creatures. But anyone who has seen one of these animals on land knows that that’s not the case up there! They awkwardly waddle and roll around on dry land, not in a graceful way at all.

Newborn seal pups usually spend four months or so at their mother’s side before they venture off on their own. So Gary and his friend wondered if their new seal friends were out on one of their first adventures.

No Boundaries

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YouTube
YouTube

The one seal pup that was so much more outgoing continued to interact with Gary. It was as if once the seal learned that Gary was a safe new friend instead of a threat, it completely put its guard down.

It got increasingly close to Gary and even nibbled at his wetsuit and rubbing its head on his hand like it was enjoying being pet. But then it made a move no one could have predicted or understood.

Just Like A Sweet Dog

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YouTube
YouTube

After seeing that the seal was enjoying the sensation of having its head pet and rubbed, he also started to lightly scratch the animal’s head and neck. It was just the way you’d interact with a regular land dog! Gary couldn’t believe how close the seal was letting him.

This was a diving trip that neither Gary or his friend would ever forget. And it was about to get even stranger!

Sign Language

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YouTube
YouTube

Surely, their time in close proximity with the seals would end soon. These kind of interactions are rare, but when they do occur they tend to be very brief. It was so fortunate that Gary and his friend had thought to bring the camera, and to turn it on when the seals first approach.

The divers figured their special seal encounter was about to end, but then one of the seals starting making motions that the humans struggled to interpret.

It Wasn’t Clear To The Divers

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YouTube
YouTube

Gary Grayson continued to pet the seal on its head and neck, and while he did so, the seal was creeping closer and closer to the bottom of the ocean. It even nibbled at Gary’s glove. The wild grey seal was clearly trying to communicate something to the diver, but neither he or his companion could figure out what the animal wanted.

This interaction continued for several minutes before something clicked and the seal’s intention was made clear.

Finally, Understanding!

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YouTube
YouTube

At some point during this interaction, the seal rolled over onto its back. Gary understood immediately what this meant! Just like a regular dog, the seal wanted its belly rubbed. It must have been really impressed by Gary’s petting skills.

It turns out that there are some universal feelings among different animal species, and Gary was learning that enjoying being petted or scratched is one of them. Cats, dogs, and seals alike enjoy this interaction with humans.

Totally Eating It Up

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YouTube
YouTube

Wow, the seal really liked Gary’s scratching and rubbing skills. If you watch the footage of the video that Gary and his friend captured that day, you can even see the seal slapping Gary’s hand with its flipper, almost like a seal-to-human high five.

For quite some time, the seal stayed on its back and let Gary pet its belly. It clearly didn’t want this pleasant moment to end anytime soon.

Finally Ready To Move On From Belly Rubs

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YouTube
YouTube

Gary had wondered if the seal would ever let him stop rubbing its belly, but the moment finally did come. The seal decided he wanted to move onto another activity then, so he swam back up to Gary’s face.

Gary then started scratching under the seal’s chin. You can tell in the video how much the seal loved that – it even appeared to be smiling! Growing more playful at the moment, the seal even nibbled on Gary’s glove and hand.

What Was The Second Seal Up To?

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YouTube
YouTube

Although Gary appears a little bit concerned as the seal started biting at his glove and hand, the animal was clearly just trying to play with him and didn’t mean any harm. So Gary just let the seal continue, as he was clearly enjoying himself so much.

What was the second, shyer seal up to at that point? Well, it had warmed up to the humans too by now, and it started investigating Gary’s feet.

Everything Has To End Sometime

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YouTube
YouTube

Although the seal was clearly enjoying all the attention, belly rubs, and chin scratches, everything has to end eventually. It was time for the fun and games to end and for the humans and animals to go their separate ways.

The divers watched as the two seals swim away. Though they were sad to see the graceful swimmers leaving, they were awestruck at the encounter they’d just gotten to experience.

Going Viral

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YouTube
YouTube

It didn’t take long for Grayson’s video to take off on YouTube and become an international sensation. When he was asked how he felt about the experience, the 55-year old businessman said that he had been “absolutely loving it” the entire time his seal interaction was happening.

To the Manchester Evening News, he said, “I had seen other seals in the water but they just buzzed past us. None was as inquisitive as [this seal] was, and none as friendly.”

Part Of The Seals’ World

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YouTube
YouTube

“We were told just to sit on the bottom of the kelp but the more still we were the more inquisitive this seal was because we were in their world,” Gary said in an interview about his cross-species encounter. Many people would not have known how to act in such a situation.

Gary and his friend maintained calm and reassuring demeanors as the seals first approached them, which seemed to entice the creatures to play and interact with the divers.

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience

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YouTube
YouTube

Even as an experienced diver, Gary has admitted that he never in a million years would have expected such an encounter to happen to him that day in the Isles of Scilly.

He recounted, “The grey seal came across and had five minutes with me, kind of thing. Then another was climbing up my leg.” Gary continued, “I’m an experienced diver but I have never known anything like that. I’ve been all over the world, to Mexico and Cuba, to dive with great big mantras and sharks.”

Living Life On The Edge

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YouTube

It turns out that Gary thrives on adventure. He told M.E.N. that he doesn’t “frighten easy,” in fact, it’s just the opposite.

He explained, “If the truth be told, I’m a bit of an [adrenaline junkie]. Before that, I was into sky-diving, I had done aerobatics. I tend to live life on the edge. But this was certainly up there with anything I have ever done.” What a remarkable adventure!