Famous Lounging Sea Lions
San Francisco, California
Hundreds of lounging sea lions arrived at the calm waters next to Pier 39 in 1990 and never left (until 2009, more on that below). Officials speculate that a new pier -- which is a kind of mall jutting over the water -- offered protection, and that the "plentiful herring supply" was too good for the sea lions to go anywhere else.
On any nice day there are scores of tourists snapping photos of the sea lions. A large "Pier 39" sign inserted into the scene dispels any notion that the spontaneous gathering is new.
The sea lions mostly lounge on wooden platforms, bellowing in unison and providing an occasional lifted head, wave of a flipper, or slick slide into the bay.
In late 2009, the sea lions suddenly disappeared -- only a handful remained of the former crowd. First the honey bees, now this. It won't lead to the collapse of the ecosystem, but it may divert the flow of tourists to other piers...