I Am the Walrus

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Way up North where the polar bears roam, where Buddy the Elf likes to frolic with his pals the narwhal and Acrtic puffin, there lies a sliver of land. You might not even notice it upon first glance; it’s perfectly flat and blends in seamlessly with the ocean.

(That’s actually not said sliver of land. But it’s somewhere there, just beyond the horizon. I told ya you couldn’t see it. What, you didn’t believe me?)

But boy oh boy, you’ll smell it before you arrive. Because, while the land is uninhabited by people, it isn’t lacking in resident…WALRUSES. (If you’re smart, you saw that coming based on the title.) Lots and lots of clumsy, aromatic, lumbering walruses. And birds, too, which like to perch atop the walrus’ head and peck at it incessantly, as it lazes the day away.

While on my Hurtigruten adventure around Spitsbergen, we were lucky enough to reach the land in question, Moffen Island, as our turning point. At 80 degrees, it’s the highest spot on Earth you can reach in open water, and that’s only dependent on ice conditions. For once, luck was on my side, and we sailed seamlessly up to Moffen, as if we’d received a direct, written invitation to do so.

Once there, we docked off shore 300 meters, as law requires during walrus mating months—as a protected wildlife sanctuary, you can only step foot on the island once October rolls around through early spring—and, well, held our noses while analyzing the tusked ones through the high-tech binoculars the ship provided. Seriously, hygiene is clearly no big deal in the Arctic, as those bad boys smelled something terrible. It was like the world’s most pungent petting zoo—only hundreds of miles from any semblance of civilization.

Naturally, when we arrived at 80 degrees, a toast was in order. Because we were technically in Scandinavia still, and, in my experience, those Scandinavians rarely accomplish a feat without a celebratory drink. Pass your law school boards? Drink! Pass 80 degrees north? Drink! Pass a kidney stone? Drink double!

There was even a TV reporter from New York 1 there filming. And then, of course, me with my unsteady hand and very unprofessional video techniques. Hey, at least my mom’s compact JVR has one kick-ass zoom. (You’re welcome.)

80 Degrees from krysleigh on Vimeo.

And just as quickly as we arrived, toasted, downed a glass of champagne, and patted each other on the back, we did a 180 and sailed back south into the non-setting sun, as the stench of walrus faded in the distance like some happy, yet slightly nauseating dream.

  • October 21, 2009

    Never thought of walrus stench before. This reminded me of yaks, and their stench. I wonder which one of them would win the fragrance wars!?! Love the last picture.

  • October 22, 2009

    Eeeeew! LOL

  • October 22, 2009

    That place looks so beautiful.

    That’s kind of the way it was when I was in Dublin, except it was a little more casual. Have 15 minutes to spare before your next stop? Have a pint!

  • October 22, 2009

    I love your travel adventures and the people (or animals) you keep company with. Cheers! Let’s tip one for that.

  • October 22, 2009

    I am always, always inspired by your travel photos. Each and every post makes me all, “I WANT TO GO THERE TOO!”

  • October 22, 2009

    New blog post? Drink! Thanks for sharing all of your adventures!

  • October 22, 2009

    I love how you have champagne in all these Scandinavian photos. Hiking! Champagne! On a boat! Champagne! They certainly know how to live it up 🙂

  • October 22, 2009

    Fantastic, I’ll drink to that entry!!! You went to a place that probably .01% of the world can say the went. 🙂

  • October 29, 2009

    Huh. I’ve always wanted to hug a walrus, on account of the fact that they look so squishy. Guess I’ll have to put that one on the To Not Do list.

  • January 19, 2011

    Did you see any polar bears on that voyage?
    And, please tell me, what ship were you aboard?

    • January 19, 2011

      Hi Chad, I was on Hurtigruten’s MS Spitsbergen. I’m not sure if that ship is still in operation, but Hurtigruten has a number of other Spitsbergen/Svalbard expedition cruises in the summer months.

      As for polar bears, I was one of the few people who did NOT see one. it was such a bummer! We saw a bobbing head from afar, but that was it. Apparently, that is atypical, and there are other people on our ship who saw polar bears as we sailed along by sitting on the deck for hours. And the captain of the cruise the week after us sent us pictures of a polar bear they spotted eating a whale! It was surreal–and I can’t believe it happened just after I left!

  • January 20, 2011

    Thank you, travel addict!

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