Walrus leaves Arctic comfort zone to take a nap aboard a Dutch submarine

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The disruption caused by the climate emergency for marine life reached a new high during the first week of Cop26, when a female walrus was discovered sleeping on a submarine at a naval base in North Holland.

Walruses normally live in polar regions – several hundred kilometers to the north. This particular animal is one of at least two species that have been seen far from their arctic habitat. Another wandering walrus, sighted off the Isles of Scilly, France, Spain and west of Cork, Ireland, has since been sighted in Icelandic waters.

Freya, as the animal has been named, is the first of its kind to visit the Netherlands for 23 years. She was seen dozing on a submarine in the naval port of Den Helder by Jeroen Hoekendijk, a Dutch scientist specializing in marine mammals.

Freya takes to the air aboard a “Walrus-class submarine” named “Zr. Mrs Dolfijn ‘. Photography : Jeroen Hoekendijk

She appears to be in good health, although Hoekendijk – who observed the animal feeding on knives earlier – noted a live injury to her front fins. She is believed to have swam south, following the Danish and German coasts. (Suggestions that she or the “Irish” walrus might have been thrown adrift on broken sea ice have been widely ridiculed by marine scientists.)

Hoekendijk was informed that he was not allowed to board the ship to photograph the animal, only to be informed; – But you can walk on it. He also noted that the ship happens to be a “Walrus-class submarine” – and is called Zr. Mrs Dolfijn.

Social media users joked that the arctic mammal shows a “prime example of animal-initiated civil resistance” and that “considering the military are huge contributors to carbon emissions, the walrus is likely protesting justice climate ”. Others, however, thought it was very kind of the Dutch Navy not to chase walruses from their boat.

But walruses aren’t just recent visitors to these southern waters. In 1456, William Caxton, medieval chronicler and printer, recorded a walrus in the Thames (with a swordfish and 20 whales). Caxton warned that the appearance of the beast was a sign of trouble ahead. Although this could have been for the walruses themselves, since they were slaughtered for their thick skin, which was made into ropes, and for their tusks, which were carved from ivory objects such as the famous coins Lewis Chess.

And five hundred years ago this year, in 1521, Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, a great chronicler of the natural world, drew perhaps the first modern image of a walrus, which would have been stranded in ” Dutch waters’. The sepia drawing will be featured in a major exhibition of Dürer’s work at the National Gallery in London later this month.

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