Follow a Journey to an Atlantic Walrus Wonderland – Franz Josef Land

Young Walrus Following along
A younger walrus follows the National Geographic media team around Rubini Rock. Photo by Lucie McNeil.

It’s things like this that still, after all these years, get me excited about National Geographic – the magazine that was a staple of every coffee table in every house I grew up in. There’s this place, up in the middle of absolute nowhere, called Franz Josef Land. It’s the sort of place that still draws explorers, since almost no one can get there. You see, Franz Josef Land is probably one of, if not THE most inaccessible island chains (archipelago actually) that there is. Basically, you get to Svalbard – already pretty much at the end of the Earth – and then turn northeast and keep going, and going, until you are about as far from any land mass as you can get. And there you are.

Fans of the walrus have their whiskers perk up when they hear the name Svalbard, since it’s pretty much Atlantic walrus central. One would assume that if you were already in Svalbard, and kept going northeast, one would run into a lot of walrus. One would be right!

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala is setting off to explore Franz Josef Land, one of the most remote archipelagos in the world, only 900 km from the North Pole. Home to polar bears, whales, seals and more, the team will investigate how global warming may be affecting this crucial ecosystem in ways we still do not fully comprehend.  Follow his adventures throughout the month.

The posts have titles guaranteed to attract a guy like me – “Walruses in the Mist” and “Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Walruses Roam”. There are incredible photos and engaging text snippets. The posts are short, but they give you a feeling for what must be a mystical, albeit cold adventure!

Here’s a link to all the blog posts tagged Franz Josef Land on National’s Explorer’s Journal. I’ll be following along and I hope you will too!

Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about Franz Josef Land.

Walrus Cupcakes!


Walrus Cupcakes

For my birthday this last year, two of the older kids who are very talented cupcake cooks made me a batch of walrus cupcakes! Clearly, I am something less than a professional cupcake photographer, so the total amount of cuteness is not properly communicated in this shot. Also – there’s a high degree of “chocolate sprinkles all over the place” involved here. Still, though – walrus cupcakes!

The book the kids got the recipe they made me was What’s New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion
. If you want a bunch of fun cupcake recipes – I highly recommend this book.

There’s an alternate recipe from the book Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make – and there’s even a YouTube video showing how to decorate the cupcakes.

Welcome to Walrus Island! Amazing pictures…

Copyright Solent/Steven Kazlowski/SeaPics
Copyright Solent/Steven Kazlowski/SeaPics

You have to check out the amazing article that is accompanied by the above picture, and several more, over on Taken from a plane about 20 miles out over the Chukchi Sea- which is pretty much walrus central. It must have been an unbelievable experience to see this in real life. I mean, look at all those freakin’ walruses!!

Here’s the link to the full article:

Welcome to Walrus Island: Scores of marine mammals turn iceberg in the ocean off Alaska into floating ‘houseboat’


Top 6 Walrus Tweets it’s Time to Retire

Bashful Walrus

As some of you may know – I keep a running search for “walrus” going on Twitter (via a column in Tweetdeck). As a result, I see many many tweets about walruses, or featuring the word walrus. After some time of doing this, I have determined that there are certain walrus-related tweets that it’s time to hang up for good. Seriously, you have no idea how many times some of these are tweeted.

Here then, are the top six walrus-related tweets that need to be retired from Twitter:

  • “That awkward moment when it’s silent in class and your stomach decides to make a dying walrus sound.”
  • TIE: “I am the walrus” and tweets related the the “bashful walrus and the fishcake” picture, above.
  • “My voice sounds great when I’m singing with my earphones on, Then I take them off and I realize I sound like a dying walrus”
  • “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to speak of many things- of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax- of cabbages, and kings.”
  • Anything related to the YouTube video “Obey the Walrus”
  • “When a guy looks at me and I can’t tell if he’s thinking “She’s cute!” or if he’s thinking “How did that walrus escape the zoo?”

To prove my assertion that these are overused – I didn’t have to type any of those, I just opened a tab with Tweetdeck and there they were, all re-posted within the last 24 hours or so! In other news, when did “dying walrus” become the go-to metaphor for really bad singing?

It was good fun while it lasted but it’s time to move on. The above tweets have long since jumped the shark, er… the walrus. Do you have suggestions to add?

If you’re not already – please follow us on Twitter @walrusweb

Smooshi and Phil: The Saga Continues, with a LOT less cuteness

Smooshi and Phil

I can’t in good conscience re-start blogging to the Walrus Web without making the first post about the drama that has sprung up around “celebrity” walrus trainer and friend-of-this-blog Phil Demers and his beloved walrus Smooshi.

We’ve written about Smooshi and Phil before, in this post: Wipeout Canada – The Walrus Connection

However, since then, things have taken a darker turn. Phil and Smooshi are now separated, lawyers are involved, Smooshi and her fellow Marineland animals are allegedly living in poor, or even neglected conditions and there are real concerns that Phil may never be able to see Smooshi again. One can only image what Smooshi must think! The poor walrus must be so confused, wondering why her favorite friend is not around anymore.

This video, of Smooshi calling for Phil, is profoundly sad:

If you don’t know the story of Smooshi and Phil – you should watch one of the many videos on Youtube, here:

The US barely pays attention to the existence of Canada, much less Canadian animal mistreatment complaints, but the Canadian media has been picking up this story, starting with this piece in the Star

But then one day the Huffington Post picked up the story: “Why I Left Marineland and My Beloved Walrus Smooshi”

Since this story ran, the noise level has amped up, helped out by Phil’s constant presence on Twitter and the assistance of many many re-tweeters, Facebook friends and social media contacts all over the world.

Of course, Marineland is not taking this lying down, and has sued both Phil and another trainer, Christine Santos – the former trainer of Kiska the killer whale, a story with just as much urgency as Smooshi’s.

An indiegogo campaign was started to raise money for a legal defense fund. Thanks to the media attention – it’s been successful. Here is a link to the online petition that has already garnered over 80,000 signatures.

In the interest of being somewhat objective, Marineland’s side of this story is outlined on their press release page:

Like many of you, I enjoy the experience of getting close to animals in zoos and theme parks – and especially in the wild! I know that many people object to animals such as whales, walrus, dolphins and elephants being used as performers. I have conflicted feelings on this myself. But whatever your feelings, I hope we can all agree that if an animal is to be kept in captivity, especially if the animal is a performer or display animal, then it should be afforded the best possible quality of life and compassionate care within surroundings as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animal. I would feel horrible to find that the animals and experience that I and my family had enjoyed were experiencing the type of conditions and mistreatment that the former Marineland trainers allege.

I like Phil, he and I have exchanged several emails since I started this blog and I’ve followed him on Twitter for some time. I have no reason to believe he would lie about the conditions Smooshi is experiencing, so I can only hope he is successful in his campaign to bring more oversight and compassionate treatment to the animals at Marineland.

Please follow Phil on Twitter @walruswhisperer and hope that he will prevail in his efforts to make sure Smooshi and all animals at Marineland get the caring treatment we all assume that the animals we enjoy at these parks receive.

And with that – the Walrus Web is back in action. We’ll keep you posted!

The Walrus Exercise

When I got home form work the other day, my girlfriend announced with a smile that Dr. Oz had featured the “walrus exercise” on his show. Now, I’m not familiar with this particular exercise, so a demo was in order. Sadly, I was not thinking ahead fast enough, or I would have captured this on video. On second thought, had I done so, I might be looking for a new place to live right now, so perhaps it’s best I wasn’t recording…

Anyway – I have been unable to locate video of the actual walrus exercise, but here’s a description:

The Walrus Exercise

The Walrus exercise boosts your metabolism and stretches out your back muscles. (Oh, c’mon, you knew Doctor Oz was going to sneak in exercise somehow!)

To do The Walrus:

-Lean forward
-Lie on the ground
-Place arms to your side
-Put hands on top of you like you’re swimming
-Pull yourself up into a walrus move

Repeat several times.

This is cribbed from

Now, I’m not sure about the whole “boosts your metabolism” thing. Personally, I’ll stick with Tae Kwon Do forms. Actually, upon further reflection – an ACTUAL walrus workout would be more like this well-known video:

Medieval Walrus Ivory Chess Pieces on Display at the Cloisters, in New York

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2004.

I miss New York. I was born in New Jersey and spent my young childhood there. We spent a lot of time in New York City and I really miss having quick access to things like the Natural History Museum and in my more recent years the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Articles about events like this one don’t make living on the west coast any easier…

The Cloisters: ‘The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen From the Isle of Lewis’ (through April 22) In 1831, a farmer on the Isle of Lewis, the largest island of the Outer Hebrides, discovered a lost cache of medieval chess pieces. Today, thanks to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in which Harry and Ron play with magically animated replicas of them, the Lewis Chessmen are world famous. On tour from the British Museum, these adorable, bug-eyed little kings, queens, bishops, knights and warders, each beautifully carved from walrus ivory, are wonderful to examine up close. You don’t have to be a chess player or a Harry Potter fan to love them. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights, (212) 923-3700,

Here is the website of The Cloisters. I highly recommend a visit, walrus ivory or no.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the Lewis Chessmen.


So anyway, we’ve been exploring Pinterest, which is all the rage right now. Pinterest is a social “pinboard” where you can share “pinned” photos, etc with the wider world. Like and share, pin and repin, and build a collection of visuals to suit your interest. We’ve just started building out our board, so there are just a few images there right now. We’ll be building out the structure of our boards and our content there this month. However, if you’re on Pinterest, please follow us!

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