Earlier this week a naval vessel on an Arctic expedition was attacked and sunk by an angry walrus…
The silence was broken.
No, not the silence, because in the Arctic Circle there is no such thing. The air sings with the low wail of the biting wind and the low groan of the creaking ice, sounds that speak infinitely more of achingly beautiful solitude than could mere silence.
The noise, then, was broken. The throbbing hum of a diesel engine could be heard, at first from many miles off, but growing louder as a small vessel approached.
Edwin regarded it gloomily.
“Bloody tourists,” he said.
His wife Winnie sighed, which when you’re a 2,000 pound walrus means making a sound like a bagpipes being stepped on by an elephant.
“Now, dear.” she said.
She knew, though, that there was no point. In a land without horses, Edwin was about to mount his hobby-horse.
“They come here,” he began, as he always did, “and act as if they own the place. They won’t try our food -”
“We eat tube worms,” pointed out Winnie.
“Well, not our food, obviously,” said Edwin, “I mean what the Inuit eat.”
“Yak,” nodded Winnie.
“I know it tastes yak,” agreed Edwin, “but they could try it anyway.”
“No, I meant -” began Winnie, to no avail.
“Instead they bring their own stuff, their own tea, and baked beans, and black pudding, which as far as I can tell is just cucumber-shaped blood, and they heat this stuff in a microwave and every time it bings the whales think somebody is ringing their doorbell.”
Edwin was on a roll now. “And they sneer at everything. They see an igloo and ask where’s the loo. They ride in snowmobiles and complain that they’re bumpy. They see the Northern Lights and say that their village firework display is better.
“And then,” he went on, “there’s the selfies. They take selfies with us, selfies with the seals, selfies with the polar bears.”
“They don’t take selfies with the polar bears,” corrected Winnie. “They accidentally take selfies with polar bears in the background, running towards them. Their next step is usually finding out just how bumpy a snowmobile can really be, if you have your foot right to the floor.”
“Whatever,” said Edwin, waving a flipper dismissively. “Most of all, though,” he went on, and Winnie knew what was coming next, “they disguise themselves as rocks.”
This might seem like an odd slight on tourists, but Edwin had a reason for making it. In 2006 he had gone for a nap on what he had thought was a rock, only to find that it had in fact been a submarine. He had been woken when the sub began its dive, an experience that had been rather as if a human had gone to sleep on what he thought was a wooden river dock, only to wake and find that he was in fact on a raft, heading towards a waterfall.
Edwin slumped into brooding silence as he remembered this. The vessel was now chugging slowly by, and the crew were emerging to stand on deck and stare at them.
“Now, dear, just ignore them,” pleaded Winnie. “I’ll go and catch us a nice dinner, just to cheer you up.”
Edwin looked at her, and his mood lifted. “Thanks, love,” he said.
They kissed. Since both of them had three-foot long tusks this was not as simple as it sounds, and indeed in the early days of their courtship they had often ended up latticing themselves, but over the years they had perfected the process.
Winnie flumped her way off the ice and into the water. One of the sailors watched her go.
“Hey guys,” he said loudly, “get a load of that fat seal.”
Edwin’s blood boiled.
“Nobody,” he growled, “insults my girl.”
He dived into the water and shot towards the boat like a wrinkled tornado. Using the technique with which he would normally make a hole in the ice he slammed his head through the hull, then ripped the opening larger with his tusks. He let out a huge roar that echoed through the vessel, filling the sailors’ hearts with terror even as the sea filled the ship with water.
He returned to his vantage point on the ice, watching as the crew fled in a lifeboat, as their distress flares filled the sky, as the ship slipped into the sea.
Winnie re-surfaced, dinner in her mouth, and looked around her in bewilderment.
“They’re gone?” she asked.
“They are,” said Edwin. “Something about the place didn’t agree with them.”