• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Walrus Changes His Mind

Air Date: Week of

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Walruses laze out on the beach. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Svalbard, Norway is home to a variety of Arctic life, some of which are quite intimidating. Living on Earth Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender recounts a close encounter with a large and wrinkled old walrus.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Svalbard archipelago in Norway is a rugged frozen landscape near the Arctic Circle that’s home to polar bears, reindeer and walrus. As Living on Earth’s explorer in residence Mark Seth Lender explains he recently had an up close, maybe too close for comfort encounter, with a 3000-pound walrus.

LENDER: A finger of glacial till points into the fjord; on Svalbard at Poolepynten point, where the walrus haul out. The place is low but the slope is steep, for a walrus, and once the effort is made the herd prefers to stay there.

Do Not Disturb.

That is all they want.

They drowse. And stretch. A flipper like an open hand reaches into the air as if making shadows on a non-existent wall. Scratches the chin... the cheek…. then lets the hand fall. The walruses in their tans and browns all blending into the land where they recline.

Out in the frigid water a walrus head appears. Tooth Walker, his Walking Teeth strong where they show above the water and lined along the length of them with crevices and ivory-bright. His wrinkled skin like a parchment map of all the places he has been, shows his age, and the bulk of him a measure of his station. He paddles unconcerned towards Poolepynten. Runs aground. Rests. Then continues, laboring up the slope under the load of his greatness.


A walrus eyes his observer suspiciously. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

From the midst of the herd another walrus raises his head in greeting, the meeting of their eyes a nod of recognition.

And the small waves break against Tooth Walker’s chest.

All as it should be.

And then Tooth Walker sees… me.

What? What!

He leans. He looks.

The eye that was soft and dark grows wide, then soft (not sure of what he’s seen), then on the double take, wide again!

And turns back!

And out he goes!

And his breath blows!

He finds his draft and swims.

Shumph! Sharumph!

Towards me.

Rump humph!

At speed on short strokes below the surface that cannot be seen.

And grounds.

Fumph!

Close.


Walruses possess distinctive tusks that can grow up to a meter in length. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

And comes closer.

Fumf farumph!

And stops, and lifts, and shows his tusks!

He looks, both sides, from his left to his right.

And…

Lowers his head.

But changes his mind! Up! The ring around the white of the eyes blood red!

And…

Subsides.

And turns away…

Tooth Walker swims, returning as he came, through the sea. Then pulls, and tugs, and lugs himself out. Rejoining the herd, they raise their tusks to him and he greets them one by one. But again, and again, his gaze returns to let me know: He has not forgotten exactly where I am.

Having seen Tooth Walker and his Walking Teeth, up close? He has nothing to worry about. Not from me.

CURWOOD: Mark Seth Lender is Living on Earth’s explorer in residence, and there’s more on our website LOE.org

 

Links

Mark Seth Lender’s Website

One Ocean Expeditions

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth