After nearly a decade of being offline, a popular Alaska webcam — dubbed the “walrus cam” — showcasing herds of Pacific male walruses as they lounge around Alaska’s remote Round Island will once again begin live streaming, thanks to some generous donations.
Round Island’s walrus cam first went online in 2005 with help from the state Department of Fish and Game and a private donor. It allowed viewers around the world to watch the male walruses in their natural habitat — while the females were off raising pups — an opportunity not afforded to most. Round Island can only be reached by an hours-long boat ride from certain places in Southwest Alaska, and was only visited by 42 people last year.
A little over a year after it first went live, the original walrus cam was taken offline due to private funding running out and operational problems with the cameras.
Now, however, thanks to a grant from explore.org — an organization that operates nature webcams around the world — as well as other donations, the Alaska state government has put two paid workers on the island who serve to not only welcome visitors, but also to ensure boats and aircraft don’t spook the enormous walruses, which could cause a stampede.
After representatives from explore.org installed webcams in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve to capture brown bears, Maria Gladziszewski, the acting deputy director of Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, said “I thought, ‘Gee, I wonder if they’d be interested in doing a walrus cam?”
As it turns out, they were interested.
“It was just serendipity,” said Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, vice president of the Annenberg Foundation and founder of explore.org. “I would have done it anyway, but this is really a cherry on top, knowing we were able to assist them in furthering their research, their love of their work and be able share with the people.”
Weingarten had actually always intended to feature a walrus cam, Gladziszewski found out later.
“To be able to capture a walrus, not just ‘a’ walrus but a herd of walrus on a beach is beyond description,” he said.
A whopping 14,000 walruses can find their way to Round Island during the year.
“It’s important to show people and showcase what is out there,” Gladziszewskis said, “This is an incredible resource to have and very, very difficult to get to, and to show people, from Bristol Bay to their desk in Indiana or wherever, it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Gladziszewskis notes that like in 2005, the walrus cams will be turned off for one week in the fall, during the annual, legal walrus hunt, conducted by Alaska Natives.
To watch the walrus cam, or any of their other nature webcams, head on over to explore.org’s live feeds.
[Photo Credit: Snapshot from explore.org live walrus cam]