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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Polar attraction

ABOARD THE AKADEMIK IOFFE IN THE CANADIAN HIGH ARCTIC - He was a cooperative walrus, but a strange one, lolling in the September sunshine on an ice floe in Croker Bay, somewhere around the 75th parallel. He seemed oblivious to the 60 humans in inflatable boats closing in on him. We were only about 20 yards away, close enough to distinguish his tusks (splayed outwards, a clue to his gender).

The engines were idling, the cameras clicking. Yet his only response was to test the water with a flipper and lean his head over the surface as though rehearsing an escape plan. Then he rearranged himself on the ice and kept on lolling.

I was thinking, is this creature stupid? Why wasn't he afraid? Somehow the 500-pound beast knew we were friends, not foes. And when we finally putt-putted away, the walrus picked up a flipper and waved to us. Really.

"He's saying goodbye," laughed Meeka Mike, one of two Inuit resource people on our trip. read more...

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