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.)
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.