A walrus in Svalbard. Picture: Michael S. Nolan /Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic
A walrus in Svalbard. Picture: Michael S. Nolan /Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic

Aggressive walrus sinks Russian Navy boat

A PROTECTIVE walrus has attacked and sunk a Russian Navy vessel carrying researchers in the Arctic.

The research and media group from the Russian Geographical Society (RGO) were working alongside the Northern Fleet, a division of the Russian Navy based in the Arctic Ocean, when they were attacked by the female walrus while trying to reach the shore of Wilczek Land in the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land last week.

"She probably did it fearing for her cubs," the RGO said in a statement.

Fortunately all on board the rubber landing vessel managed to reach the shore and survived.

"The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader," the RGO said, adding the polar region is "fraught with many dangers" and the incident is "another confirmation that no one is waiting for a person in the Arctic".

The expedition through the archipelago, now in its final stages, is being conducted from Russia's Altai rescue tugboat.

A Russian Navy vessel in the Arctic.
A Russian Navy vessel in the Arctic.

Researchers retraced the steps of the Austro-Hungarian expedition of 1874 that first reported discovering the archipelago while attempting to find new shipping routes, studying the plants, wildlife and glaciers in the area.

During the Cold War the archipelago was annexed by the Soviet Union and became the location for a pair of military airfields.

Since 1994 the area has been a nature sanctuary and became part of the Russian Arctic National Park in 2012.

Earlier this year, fishermen discovered a beluga whale thought to have escaped from a Russian Navy base.

The use of ocean mammals for military purpose has been well documented in the past, with both the US and Russian militaries having used dolphins for a variety of tasks.

It's not known whether the Russian Navy may now try and recruit the walrus who sank its boat.