An unexpected sight

Walrus scavenging on dead Minke Whale
Walrus scavenging on dead Minke Whale

Walruses are specialised animals who feed on clamps. They use their strong mouth to suck the meat out of the shell. I did know seals occasionally would kill and eat other seals, but had never seen any of that.

When we came back from our landing at Hornbaekodden, we saw something big and white far away with several Northern Fulmars around. Looking through our binoculars or even taking images with our big lenses didn’t really give any better views. As we saw a small blow every now and then our first conclusion was that maybe it would be a dying Beluga, possibly a mother with calf as we also saw a darker shade in the water…

When we came closer it turned out we were wrong. The big white thing turned out to be the fermenting stomach of most likely a dead Minke Whale. It wasn’t really big, around 10 meters long and the grooves on the throat were visible. The whale was floating upside down with the intestines spilled out. Clearly some animal had been scavenging on it, as we could see some bite marks on the underside. But what about the small blow we had seen? That became clear when a male Walrus surfaced right next to our zodiac. After having a look at who this new visitor was (and we quickly retreated to the safety of the Noorderlicht), he went under again, continuing to feed of the whale. We watched this scene with amazement. Hopefully the whale will wash ashore soon, so we can enjoy also the Polar Bears scavenging. But that would be a less rare sight as this Walrus.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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