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Walrus corpse being harvested on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, a couple miles east of Barrow, Alaska. (2007)
Between the title of today's post and the thumbnail, I want to make it really clear what I'm talking about. That way if seeing a bloody, dead walrus isn't your cup of tea you can move along without being too terribly offended and traumatized. As I've already said, I'm not too crazy about showing you pictures of dead animals here, but not doing so would be short-changing my explanations to you of what we saw in Barrow.
Daniel, our guide, had told me before we arrived that walrus had been spotted around Barrow. He also told me a story about how he got to see a polar bear try to take a walrus once when the ice was in. As Daniel explained it, the bear sunk its claws into the blubbery flesh of the long-toothed one and started gnawing on it. The walrus extended its head and neck out so it could dig its tusks into the ice, slowly pulling the bear across the ice as it tried to strike the killing blow. I just realized I've told you this before. Read the rest of the story.
While we were in Barrow, Bobby and I met at least a couple different people who told us how they'd seen a walrus on the shore or a baby walrus playing in the water, but we never saw any alive. It seemed they were all around us, almost like when our backs were turned they were making faces at us from the water only to sink below the waves the moment we turned around.
On our first tour on our first day in Barrow, when we were coming back from Point Barrow, we came across a couple Inpuiat gentlemen harvesting a walrus corpse that had washed up on shore. Daniel explained that judging by the size of the tusks that the walrus should have a half to a third bigger than it was, so it was probably diseased or old or crippled or whatnot. We piled out of the van with our cameras while he asked permission on our behalf to take some pictures. I had started shooting the blood in the nearby tidal pool, so as soon as he gave us the thumbs up, I took some shots of the walrus. Moments later the guys changed their minds and asked to move away from the area. First it was explained they were going to drag the walrus with their truck and they wanted us at a safe distance. Then Daniel had us get into the van as one of the men started walking towards the walrus with huge, wickedly curved knife that looked like it belonged more in a Dracula movie than on the shore of the Arctic Ocean.
As we drove away, Daniel explained that due to the decomposed nature of the walrus, they could not make use of much of the animal's body. About the only good thing still salvageable were the tusks and they had to decapitate the animal to get the tusks. We learned that beheading walruses is greatly frowned upon because it is considered an insult to the animal because you are not making use of the entire body. Because of the decomposed body, though, situations like this are the exception to the rule.
That said, I don't think anyone wanted us getting pictures of the guys cutting the head off the walrus.
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