July 10, 2017
- as seen by -Ricardo Antunes
I caught this Pacific walrus taking a nap on an ice floe in the Bering Strait as our boat, the Anchor Point, passed by.
I traveled to the Bering Strait to recover sound recorders deployed in the fall that have been under water and ice for the entire winter. These instruments pick up sounds from a number of marine mammal species, including the knocking sounds made by male walrus.
Walruses seasonally migrate through the strait and it is thought that this migration is mainly driven by the sea ice. As the Arctic ice sheet expands in the fall and winter, animals are pushed south to the Bering Sea. During the spring and summer, the ice recedes, allowing thousands of walrus to travel back north to the Chuckchi Sea and take advantage of new foraging opportunities. As the result of ongoing climate change, the Arctic Sea ice has been reaching new minimum levels, and this may be creating new challenges to these animals.
I have seen and photographed a few more walruses on our trip, but they were likely the tail of the migration. I suspect that most of the animals have already made the crossing north into the Chuckchi Sea.
As the Anchor Point makes its way back to port, I hope that some of the walruses swam past our instruments and left a sound record of their migration.