A picturesque afternoon touring an abandoned seal pond research site in the forest.

For the last few weeks I have been pining for an urban exploration adventure with my photo collective the TLR Club. We had a few trips planned for the spring and summer that we canceled because of COVID-19 (obviously,) and we won’t be planning much for the near future considering the pandemic is in a second wave. So it was something magical to discover that there is a long-abandoned, seal pond research site in Guelph that I could gain access to and photograph!

When I got to the site, I was surprised to realize that it was hiding in plain sight just off a high traffic walking path! And it revealed why I had seen boats in the forest, when I was reviewing my aerial photographs earlier this summer!

I am still in the initial stages of my research on the site, but I’ve gleaned so far the seal ponds were part of a marine biology program at the University of Guelph established in the early 1970’s by Dr. Keith Ronald who is said “Man must first be made to see that humanity’s common enemy is as Malraux said – humanity itself.” when asked about the ecology of the planet in the future.

Harp Seal in an observation tank at Guelph – Guelph Alumnus 1975

During the the years, 19 seals (Harp, Ringed, Harbour and even two Baikel Seals from Russia!) and a polar bear named “Huxley” rescued from from Churchill Manitoba persisted at the site.

The defunct fish free seal ponds are now the perfect location for odonate breeding (dragonflies and damselflies), and last year was a successful nesting site for turkey vultures.

I dropped by with my cameras and drone late one afternoon in September and found what was left of the building(s) split open, a pond with 2-and-a-half sunken boats, and the pathways around the concrete holding ponds nearly unnavigable. You can see in the photo gallery below that the ponds, and lab/workshop/lockeroom/maintenance building were collapsing and being consumed by the forest. It appeared that one day research just ceased and then the place was locked up and left to be consumed by the elements, and there is discussion today about whether or not to just let the process continue.

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