The world of the walrus is a collection of observations
collected from varying 20th century sources about the nature of the
marine life form known as the Odobenus
rosmarus or “Walrus”. A walrus is a unique creature as it is only existing
member of the family Odobenidae, it evolved from a bear like creature 20
million years ago. The book itself is in a fairly unstructured order the first
third focusing on the distinctive physical attributes of the walrus and its
evolutionary adaptations which allow it to thrive in the arctic environment.
For example it has a unique position in the arctic food chain as they have no
real natural predators unless a polar bear or orca gets desperate and has no
easier prey. Meanwhile the walrus has an extremely varied diet, although it is
best known for eating clams and other molluscs it is known to occasionally
supplement with several species of seals. I was also surprised by the huge
dimensions that have been ascribed to walruses by several medieval sources, as
some have been reported to have grown to over 6 meters in length, dwarfing even
the polar bear, the largest land predator in the world. There is a passage
about a walrus using its considerable intelligence to incapacitate narwhals and
beluga wales and avoid their natural weaponry even if they are much larger
The next part of the book which was far more comprehensive
and focused on the social life of the walrus as observed by several 19th
and 20th century scientists and explorers. The walrus is inherently
a social animal living in large groups of up to several thousand creatures.
Notably they have very strong familial bonds, for example putting young
walruses on the back of the parent when threatened by orca attack from below.
Walruses also react extremely violently when group members are under threat,
they’ve been known to ram and attack hunting boats after several of them have
been killed by gunfire. These bonds are in fact so strong that after a walrus
has been injured by gunfire other walruses try to drag it off the ice into the
water to save its life. Hunters have cynically exploited this by tormenting
young walruses so its distress calls attract other walruses to be hunted.