September 5, 2023

The walrus

Posted on September 5, 2023  •  2 minutes  • 346 words  • Other languages:  Italiano

Note: all the photos on this blog are Copyright © Andrea Barberio unless specified otherwise
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EDIT: this is a recap video of the Polar season 2023 from SecretAtlas, the exploration company that showed us the beauty and the fragility of the Arctic, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-ztQK71Fq4 .

While in Svalbard I had various encounters with Atlantic walruses . They are curious yet susceptible animals, and should be approached with care. Here I am reporting our experience, and a few facts we learned about them.

Walruses are very sensitive to disturbance, so we constantly monitored their behaviour to ensure they were OK with our presence, ready to step back if they showed any sign of nervousness.

Our encounters

In one of the encounters we approached a group of walruses on the shore after landing with the expedition’s Zodiacs, maintaining our distance of at least 30 meters as per AECO's guidelines . The walruses were just fine with us being there and silently staring at them.

Walruses on the shore

In another encounter, the walruses approached us while in the water with our Zodiacs. Engine off so not to disturb them - and it is fine to get closer than 30 meters if it’s the walrus to approach.

Walruses approaching the Zodiacs

And in yet another encounter, a group of walruses were just feasting in the water, jumping all over and around, in pods of one or even two dozens. We weren’t sure about the meaning of such behaviour though.

Walruses dancing in the water


There are two subspecies of walrus (Odobenus rosmarus): the Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) and the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens). The Pacific walrus is bigger and heavier than the Atlantic one, reaching up to 2 tons, and it has a red-ish, less smooth skin. On warmer days, or when the walruses spend a long time outside of the water, their skin can turn pink because of the heat. Red skin on the neck of male Atlantic walruses neck instead are a sign of past fights with other walruses.


Walruses came near to extinction because they were over-hunted for their tusks, however the population is growing again after various conservation efforts.

Here are 10 facts about walruses on the WWF website .

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