Thin Ice Blog  

« Oil, acid and the future of the Laptev | Back to Khatanga »

Up all night with walruses

Share this page
 
Geoff York and Anatoly Kochev conduct walrus biopsies in the Arctic night. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-CanonGeoff York and Anatoly Kochev conduct walrus biopsies in the Arctic night. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-Canon

A WWF-led research team, a Canon photographer, and crew are traveling to Siberia’s Arctic coast on the Laptev Sea, to help solve a scientific mystery. The Laptev Linkages expedition is sponsored by Canon.

People in the North are generally laid back, prepared more than most for contingencies, and are used to living on a modified version of “island time”. Planes are often delayed or cancelled and travelling by land or sea is equally tenuous. Patience and flexibility are necessary.

The same is true for those that work in the north, including our crew. As we headed down to Tsvetkova Cape last night, it was unclear what our plan would be upon arrival. Would we set up camp and prepare for 4+ nights ashore? Or work from the boat for one night and two days and return with the vessel? Or plan C: stay up all night to obtain our observations and samples and then head back earlier than planned. With 24 hour daylight, clock time becomes somewhat irrelevant.

We snuggle in next to 1,000 new noisy friends.

 

Anatoly, Tom, and I gear up for a long evening. Plenty of layers for a cold misty night of sitting and kneeling on an even colder gravel beach, a thermos of strong coffee and all-important chocolate, just in case.  So far, we’ve found these walruses much easier to approach than similarly sized pacific walrus haul outs. We snuggle in next to around 1,000 new noisy friends.

Large males make up most of the walruses on the beach, with the largest and oldest in the middle and younger ones out towards the edge. A few females are scattered about, but most are near the shore with yearlings and new calves. There’s constant chatter and shifting of positions.

One unfortunate aspect of working this closely with walruses: haulouts double as latrines. Our outer clothing will never be the same.

We successfully collect an additional 18 samples, working as a team to biopsy, retrieve and clean the samples. Meanwhile, we’re constantly repelling curious walrus that come too close for comfort. At 0230 and with only one functional biopsy bolt left, we decide to call it a night. We arrive back at the boat for a very late “dinner” and a welcome change of clothing.

« Oil, acid and the future of the Laptev | Back to Khatanga »

Related posts


Comments