I Am the Walrus

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Pacific Walrus male portrait showing tusks and nodules

I am the Walrus, or at least the best looking Walrus, on Round Island

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You strange two-legged creature:  I’ve seen you watching us from that high overlook, and as long as you stay right there I’ll tell you a bit about myself, since you are so curious and you’re probably going to stay there unless I reveal a bit about me and hundreds of my closest friends.  Just wait a minute while I jab my neighbor with my ivories for no particular reason.

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Pacific Walrus threat postureWe like to give each other the evil eye and threaten each other with our favorite weapons–our gleaming white ivory tusks!

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Yes, my ivory tusks are long, and they are closely related to your puny canine teeth.  Those of us who believe in evolution–and that’s surprisingly few among us Walruses–think that we had a distant bear-like ancestor who decided that swimming and diving for clams wasn’t such a bad way to live.  In fact, I can’t imagine any better way to live than mucking around the murky ocean bottom, 200 feet down, probing in the dark for clams hiding in the mud.

Did you know that all of us here at Round Island are males?  Yes, I suppose you had guessed that by the tough guys surrounding me right now, several of whom

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Pacific Walrus haulout along Dragon's Tail

Hundreds of us gathered on the shore of Dragon’s Tail, on Round Island.

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are giving me the evil eye.  “Back at you, one tusk!”  The testosterone is thick here, but with my 4,000 lbs. and 36″ tusks I can fight ANYONE on the beach and win.  At least I think so.  And I’ve got some major league scars to prove it.  But even I am reluctant to tangle with Orcas and Polar Bears.

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See all these big bumps on my neck and shoulders?  Only we males have them, and they develop in our maturing years, kind of like your teenage boys get a big Adam’s apple and whiskers.  In contrast, our ladies have shoulders as smooth as silk–or at least smooth as thick leather.  We males call our bumps “bosses;” remember that term for your hardest crossword puzzles!

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Pacific Walruses battling for dominanceThere is a time to rest, and a time to fight (I think it says so in Ecclesiastes).

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Here comes a big pale male named “Ghost” emerging from the ocean.  He looks like an albino, but really he is just cold from spending so much time in the ocean depths, and the blood retreated to the core of his body to keep his heart warm.

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Pacific Walrus pale upon emerging from the Pacific OceanGhost is a pale male who just spent the morning groping around the dark sea floor

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Did I mention that we have warm hearts?  When he climbs up here and snuggles close to the rest of us, he will warm up and turn to a bright cinnamon color as his blood rises to the skin.  Much more attractive, don’t you think?  Human, how come you’re so pale?

When the guys get together each summer, we make a lot of noise.  With the ladies up in the arctic this summer, we can belch and burp and sneeze and snuffle and splash and pass gas to our heart’s content, and nobody’s around to turn up their disgusted noses at us.  But we can make some sweet sounds too.  When I was in the ocean this morning, I inflated the air sacs around my neck–they’re kind of like the life vests that I’ve seen on your boats–and began practicing the song I am going to sing when we get together with the ladies again.

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Pacific Walrus singing using inflated pharyngeal sacI sing sweet songs using my inflated pharyngeal sac (my very own life preserver)


Oh, you heard it?  What did you think?  Some of us think it sounds kind of like bells, but I prefer thinking of it as a sweet violin song.  I bet you didn’t think a big, fat, old guy like me could play a violin ever so sweetly, but there you go.  Another mystery for you to contemplate.  And you think you humans know everything!

I like seafood of all sorts, but especially clams.  My buddies can tell you that I’ve eaten 6,000 clams in one morning!  That was a personal best, but I also like sea cucumbers and crabs and shrimp.  Some of my buddies like to catch and eat seals, but that seems like too much work; plus, it’s a bit too much like cannibalism, don’t you think?

You live up there on rock while I spend most of my time in the deep ocean, where it’s dark and cold.  Yeah, I’ve got nearly four inches of  blubber to keep me warm.  Human, I don’t mean any disrespect, but you are carrying quite a bit of blubber too.  What’s your excuse?

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Pacific Walrus using flippers to rub his headI awoke with a headache after a long nap

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Speaking of you, human, I see you have a beard that is showing a bit of white.  Kind of like my whiskers, is it?  No?  Well, my whiskers are actually connected by nerves and muscles to my brain, so I can use them to “feel” the gravel bottom of the ocean.  With my little eyes up pretty far on my head, they are of no use 200′ down at the bottom of the Bering Sea.  So I use my whiskers–actually I call them vibrissae–to help me gather food by touch.

Pacific Walrus climbing up on a rock at Round IslandThey are the most sensitive part of my body, with one exception, hey, hey, if you know what I mean!  Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you; I think I’ve been spending way too much time with the guys.

You’re probably wondering why all of us guys like to snuggle together on the beach, when we don’t even like each other all that much.  On a cold day, it helps keep us warm and it gives us a lot of eyes and ears and noses to look for trouble.  The downside is all these bloody patches on my shoulders where I’ve been stabbed by young toughs.  That’s not to say I don’t get in a few jabs of my own; when I raise my head with these fierce tusks and sharp glare, most of my lessers will back off pretty fast.  My biggest nightmare is losing one of these tusks in battle; that would be so humiliating!  Talk about a blow to a guy’s ego!

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Pacific Walrus with broken tuskOne of the saddest experiences you’ll ever know is losing a tusk.

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My tusks are useful for other tasks that you might not know about.  During the winter, I can come up over the edge of floating ice and sink my ivories into the ice like one of your ice axes; with that grip I can then raise my whole body up over the edge.  Some of your kind, I think they were called “Eskimos,” used to call us “tooth walkers” after seeing what we could do with these babies.

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Pacific Walruses showing threat postures in haulout on Round IslResting with my peer group on Flat Rock (though, in reality, I am peerless).

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Pacific Walrus hind feetDid you know that I have tiny toenails on my flippers?

Do I miss the women and children?  Well, sort of, but we said our goodbyes shortly after mating and that’s all right by me.  She can raise the kid all on her own and I would just get in the way.  Isn’t that how a lot of you humans live?  Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that was such a sensitive subject …

I’m getting kind of warm laying out here in the hot July sun, so if you don’t mind, I’m just going to roll off this rock and into the ocean.  Watch the big splash!

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Pacific Walrus entering oceanSee ya later, gator!..

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Oh, and why don’t you come and visit me next winter!  I’ll be on an ice flow several hundred miles from here, and you can take a combination dogsled and boat tour.  Just ask around if you have trouble finding me:  my Walrus name is Goo Goo G’Joob.  Everyone knows me by reputation.  Meanwhile, let me say goodbye to you with my favorite bubbly Bronx cheer.

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Pacific Walrus exhaling with a cloud of sprayI bet you wish you could hear me right about now!..

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Pacific Walrus waving flipper while restingBye now!..

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To view three other weblog stories of our Round Island trip, go to:

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4th of July in an Eskimo Village

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Puffins and Auklets and Murres, Oh My!

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Experiencing the Walruses of Round Island, Alaska

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To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

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8 Comments on “I Am the Walrus”


  1. […] here: I Am the Walrus « Lee Rentz Photography Weblog Tags: disgusted, heart, ladies, our-heart, some-sweet, sounds-too, summer, the-ladies, […]


  2. What an informative and entertaining piece on the life of a walrus, with fantastic illustrative to boot! Thanks for sharing all this info, and all the details of your trip to Round Island, which sounds like a truly amazign place….I might have to make a similar journey one day!


  3. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

  4. Patty Kendall Says:

    Great photos! I make costumed designed toys, and my friend’s son asked for a walrus. I wasn’t sure what the “tail” end of a walrus looked liked,( and you’d be amazed at the kind of photos you get when you type in “walrus butt” online….few had anything to do with actual walruses! ) So thank you for your amazing photography and research into this remarkable and majestic, ( and yes….unfortunately, not terribly cute and cuddly), creature. I enjoy scuba diving and travel…. and might just have to make a trip out to Round Island myself some day. Thanks again…. wonderful work!! I may now begin sewing….. oh goody….

    Take Care,

    Patty

  5. sarah Says:

    Hello- HOW DELIGHTFUL this post is! I have been using Animal Totems a lot these day and integrating it my Coaching practice- I think Walrus is on ef my power totems animals- so FUN to see how you have written this- thank you thank you! Sarah


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