A group of scientists and media got a rude welcoming by an ornery walrus while visiting Franz Josef Land in the Arctic last week. The group, which are in the high arctic to explore the famed archipelago and investigate the flora and fauna that exist there, ended up having a cold and wet ride on their zodiac when the animal attacked their boat and ended up sinking it.
According to an update from the research team (in Russian), the female walrus was likely just protecting her young from the boat, which had strayed a little too close for comfort. The animal lashed out at the passing boat, which was likely an inflatable zodiac used to travel from the main research vessel on to the island itself. Anyone who has ever seen a walrus in the wild can attest to how large and powerful those creatures are, and even though a zodiac is a durable boat used on expeditions all over the world, a set of walrus tusks could easily puncture the outer shell.
The update shared by the Russian team only briefly mentions the incident, which has made headlines across the Internet. No one was hurt in the walrus attack and the crew continues to go about its mission on Franz Josef Land, which a remote group of tiny islands located above the 81st parallel. In the history of polar expedition, the region was often used as a staging ground for early attempts to reach the North Pole or explore the Arctic Ocean in general.
Today, the islands are home to only military personnel and the occasional research team like this one. From the sounds of the update, the group is there to survey the area and search for remnants left behind from past expeditions. For example, they’re visiting the site of the camp used by American Walter Welman back in 1898 and 1899. The team is also hoping to discover the final resting spot of Russian polar explorer Georgy Sedov, who died there in 1914.
Of course, the group has also learned a valuable lesson when it comes to dealing with the wildlife on Franz Josef Land. You can bet they won’t be straying too close to any walruses moving forward.