Friday, May 26, 2006

Ahoy Walrus!

Yesterday morning, we passed through ice floes in the northern Bering Sea. We were en route to the Bering Strait, which is the 58-mile-wide channel that separates Russia and the US. I happened to be heading to the bow to see the ice that the Healy was parting as we sailed north. Someone yelled, "Walrus!" There they were off the bow. There were a couple of small groups watching the 402-foot-long Healy approach. Some stayed on the ice as we passed. Others, who were closer to the boat, slipped silently into the icy water. They bobbed up and down in groups.

Walruses lie on top of each other when on ice. In the water, they seemed to want to stay as a group, so they were hitting heads a little. This may have been just because they were startled by the boat and wanting to "run away." Carleton Ray, the walrus researcher on the boat, said walruses are quite graceful swimmers, but they look clunky on land. He said he had seen a little over a thousand walruses grouped together on a large swath of ice farther north a few days ago.

Walrus photo courtesy of Jackie Grebmeier.