A Manatee Comes to Manhattan
Eleven years ago today, The Times ran a little piece about a male manatee who decided, for reasons unknown, to swim up the East River. Now, the manatee nation appears to have sent another emissary northward, though the sex of this one is unspecified so far. It was sighted several times in the Hudson River last weekend, along the piers in Manhattan and as far north as Sleepy Hollow. Migration is normal for manatees, but to say that this one was out of its native range is to state the case too mildly. Seeing a manatee in the Hudson is like seeing a moose in Myrtle Beach.
A manatee sighting is a subtle thing in itself — no threatening dorsal fin knifing through the waves, no porpoising, just the quiet, still length of a half-ton mammal’s back on the surface, a place where the water has lost its shine. There is hardly a more benign creature on earth than a manatee, which lives an entirely vegetarian life underwater and is an endangered species. In fact, the biggest threat it poses, especially here so far from home, is simply its unexpectedness. Its natural enemy is boat traffic, which is why we hope this manatee forsakes the Hudson before long.
We tend to notice, of course, only the creatures that surface in the harbor and the Hudson — dolphins, whales, seals, even the barely surfacing manatee. Who knows what other endangered visitors slip past the Narrows and up the river beneath the waves? For now, we’ll try to keep a watch on this one placid summer visitor, who is the antithesis of all things “Jaws.”