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25 March, 2001

Animal Close-up/ Science Observations

What do you know about walruses?

Walrus myths. These statements are not true!

Walrus use their tusks for feeding.

Walrus have a " walrus mustache".

Walrus only eat clams.

Commonly asked questions:

* What do you call a group of walrus?

A herd

* What is the adult male, the adult female, and the baby called? Bull, cow, and calf

* Why do some look white?

When they swim in very cold water for a long period of time they will shut down the blood flow to their skin to conserve heat. This makes them look pale. When they haul out of the water and warm up, the blood returns to their skin and they turn a lovely dark rosy brown.

* Do female walruses have tusks?


Walruses are from the class of mammalia, order of carnivora, suborder of pinnipeds, the family of odobenidae. They're the only pinniped (fin-footed) with external tusks.

The walrus will haul out of ice in the winter or shore in the summer to rest. Walrus have large eyes and either long or short whiskers. Long whiskers are found on walrus in captivity. Short whiskers are found on walrus found in the wild. The whiskers allow them to root through the dirt like a pig. They are carnivores that are adapted to marine existence. They use their whiskers to find bivalves (clams) and they use suction to remove meat from the shells. Bottom feeders, diving up to 10 minutes, they mainly feed on clams and other creatures that live on the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes they will kill and consume seals and birds. The upper canines in both sexes develop into tusks. Tusks are used for hauling out on ice, defense, and aggression but not for digging food. Their tusks get to 40" and 15 pounds a piece.

The Pacific walrus we have been seeing on our trip are the only walruses in Alaska. The Atlantic walrus is the other species and it is found in Eastern Canada and Greenland. The average walrus weighs 2500 pound and are 12 feet long. The average female weighs less than the male. As observed, they are extremely gregarious animals, often found together in large groups. The walrus can live to be over 40 years old.

(Walrus information provided by Gay Sheffield, Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

***Walruses are primarily the only animal that have been thus far observed.

Daily Update

The temperature when we got up was 3 and the wind-chill is -45 F to -55 F throughout the day and night. The winds have ranged from 40-60 knots. As a result, all stations were cancelled. The onboard medical officer told us that at these temperatures, frostbite can occur within 45 seconds of exposure to bare skin. The captain closed down operations today. The decks were secured preventing anyone from going outside. These weather conditions are expected to continue until Wednesday. We have lots of warm clothes but safety is of utmost importance. The Coast Guard is monitoring temperature and weather closely. The decision was made to move to another location for station work where the weather may be less severe.

Walruses on the ice. <>

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