Heavyweights with Unexpected Skills

2010, Nature  -  43 min Leave a Comment
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Breathtakingly beautiful but hostile to all life is the far north of Szpicbergen. Walruses are used to this freezing cold. They lump around in the shallow waters and that's a rare opportunity for accompanying these dangerous seals on their dives. The Norwegian Szpicbergen archipelago, also called Svalbard, is located only 1,000 kilometers away from the North Pole. Jason Roberts is at home there in that rugged terrain. He's a biologist, photographer, and survival expert, and always on the search for something unusual.

Seeing the glaciers carve still gives him goosebumps. The birth of an iceberg is definitely one of the most spectacular natural events in Svalbard. Dangerous tidal waves often develop once the massive pieces of ice plummet into the ocean. Large areas of the islands are covered with glacial fields and large ice shield. Polar bears can appear everywhere on the islands of Svalbard.

Jason Roberts has left the last bastion of civilization and he's on his way to the uninhabited islands which are refuge for large seals. Walruses are the heavyweights among the seals. These imposing animals can weigh up to 5 metric tons. Most of their weight consists of fat immediately beneath their tough skin. Without their fat walruses cannot survive in the frigid temperatures of the arctic waters. Even their offspring are already well protected against the cold.

After four hours Jason has reached the Prins Karls Island safe and sound. His friends and study objects are all there and welcoming him. Some of them check to make sure that he's the same person as the one who came last year. Others can't be bothered and continue to sleep and snore loudly. Walruses are very social animals. Scientists always describe their life together in a group as exemplary. Nevertheless, their social structure is subject to a strict hierarchy. Their massive tusks are the most obvious feature of the walruses. They couldn't survive without them. The tusks are tools for climbing, searching for food and for stabilizing walruses on the ice.