An expedition that made everyone hold their breath.
A furry Walrus Attacks and Sinks Russian Navy Boat
The Russian Geographical Society says the boat of a research team in the Arctic was wrecked by a walrus.
A walrus attacked and sunk a Russian Navy vessel last week as it approached the shore of a remote Arctic island, according to the Russian Geographical Society (RGO).
Fortunately, the crew of the wrecked landing craft all made it to shore, and no walruses were harmed by the encounter. The incident is another example of how “polar latitudes are fraught with many dangers,” said the RGO in a statement, adding that the walrus may have been defending young pups.
The craft was dispatched from the Altai, a rescue tug that belongs to the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy. The Altai is currently on a scientific expedition to Franz Josef Land, an Arctic archipelago that is only inhabited by military personnel. The scientists onboard the landing vessel were on their way to land at Cape Geller on the island of Wilczek Land when the attack occurred.
“Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen,” said the Northern Fleet in a statement.
This is not the first time that walruses have shown that they will slam into vessels if provoked. In 2012, explorer Erik Boomer was kayaking near Ellesmere Island in Nunavut when he was attacked by a walrus.
“There was about 15 seconds of terror that happened when all of a sudden, a walrus came up out of the water literally right underneath and beside me,” Boomer stated. “I saw the walrus’s face and it was pushing me and I was getting spun around. I planted my paddle right between his eyes and held my distance and kept pushing off and kind of whacking him.”
Both Boomer and the walrus were unharmed by the encounter.
Though these walrus-vessel interactions show that the animals should not be underestimated, walruses don’t only approach boats to attack them. In 2006, for instance, a walrus was photographed sunning itself on a Russian submarine.
The Altai expedition has now resumed its mission of surveying Arctic glaciers and wildlife, and reconstructing the first scientific expeditions to explore Franz Josef Land.
For instance, the researchers are looking for the remains of Russian Arctic explorer Georgy Sedov, who died in 1914 while attempting to reach the North Pole. They are also retracing the journey of an Austro-Hungarian expedition to the archipelago in 1874, using an eyewitness account written by explorer Julius Payer, according to the Northern Fleet.
Hopefully, no more angry walruses are awaiting the researchers.
The organization added: “Recently, we wrote about the risks that accompany expedition members. Wild animals, storms, low temperatures.
“The incident is another confirmation that no one is expecting humans in the Arctic.”
The joint mission is working around the Franz Josef Land archipelago to investigate the flora and fauna of the region, as well as making glaciological observations.
It is also mapping historical expeditions such as those of Austro-Hungarian military officer Julius von Payer in 1874, and American explorer Walter Wellman in 1898.
The integrated expedition of the Northern Fleet to the Franz Josef Land archipelago operating at the Altai rescue tugboat has begun the final stage of the main research program. Severomorets together with the scientific group of the Russian Geographical Society followed the path of the discoverer of the Earth, Franz Josef Julius Payer.
The expeditionary detachment began its journey by landing at Cape Teghthoff on the island of Gall. Here, the sites of the Peier Expedition camp and the remains of the American expedition camp of Walter Welman 1898-1899, as well as the flora and fauna of the archipelago, were investigated. Scientists made the necessary glaciological observations.
Following the path of the Austro-Hungarian expedition of 1874, the expedition participants recorded the main geographical points described by Julius Payer in his book “725 days in the ice of the Arctic”. The route ended with a landing on Cape Auk of Rudolph Island, where they organized a search for traces of a possible burial of the brave Russian polar explorer Georgy Sedov, who died during the “storm” of the North Pole in 1914.
Finishing work in the eastern part of Franz Josef Land, the expeditionary team explored Fort McKinley, one of the mournful places for exploring the archipelago. Here, on the Cape of Geller of the island of Wilcek Land, the expedition of Walter Welman of 1898-1899 established a food warehouse. A reminder of the events of those years is the grave of Bernt Bentsen, who died in early January 1899.
During the landing at Cape Geller, a group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat. Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.