Is Freya the Walrus Sinking Boats in Norway?

She just needs a place to relax.

  • Published
Walrus, Animal, Sea Life
Image via Togiak National Wildlife Refuge/Wikimedia Commons

Claim

A 1,500-pound walrus named Freya has been lounging on boats off the coast of Norway, often damaging them and causing some to sink.

Fact Check

It’s hard out there for a walrus like Freya who just wants to sunbathe on boats. Since late 2021 she has traveled long distances from her home in the Arctic Circle, stopping in the U.K., the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. She’s been in Norway most recently in the summer of 2022, where she annoyed locals after lying on their boats and damaging them, thanks to her 1,500-pound frame. 

More than a hundred miles south of Oslo, Norway, Freya posed a problem for marina authorities, who found her sunbathing on boats. Some of the vessels were just too small for her and ended up sinking into the water. The mayor of the town of Kragerø told Deutsche Welle in late June 2022 that officials were planning to get Freya her own sunbathing spot on a floating dock. They planned to move her on the dock to a new home along the coast. 

Around mid-July, she was spotted in Oslo, where one rower even tried to spray Freya with a water hose as she lay on the jetty of his rowing club. Eventually she rolled into the fjord, according to Dagbladet, a Norwegian tabloid newspaper. Oslo harbor police also tried to flush her away from a boat using water hoses. 

But Walrus researcher Rune Aae is concerned about the treatment Freya has been getting from visitors and locals trying to either catch a glimpse of her or trying to shoo her away. 

“She doesn’t get any peace,” Aae told Norwegian news agency, NTB. He observed how she was surrounded by several boats and jet skis, and how she made sudden movements when they got too close. 

“Everything indicated that she wanted to get away. But she couldn’t because she was trapped,” he said. “She needs to relax for up to 20 hours. When she is constantly stressed out by people and their presence, it is not good for her.”

At some point during her Oslo sojourn, a video was taken by Norwegian tabloid VG of Freya attacking a swan. A witness told VG that the swan had died. 

Freya normally stuck around for two to four days in a given area before moving on, according to Aae.

The BBC reported on Freya’s whereabouts in Shetland in December 2021, where a wildlife photographer noted that she was distinctive because of the “little pink spot” on her nose. While there, she was spotted resting on a salmon farm cage. 

And in late October 2021 she was discovered sleeping on a submarine on a naval base off the coast of North Holland. She was reportedly the first of her species to visit the Netherlands in 23 years. She actually chose to end up on the “Walrus class” of submarines, as tweeted by the Royal Netherlands Navy who shared regular updates on her days there:

Freya has been both hailed and reviled by the Norwegian tabloids for her habits, and the world has been following her journey for almost a year. However, the Natural History Museum in the U.K. pointed out that walruses like Freya are being forced to travel further due to a loss of habitat as a result of ice caps melting. The increase in effort may result in starvation, exhaustion, and greater risk of death as more mammals crowd land surfaces. 

Travis Park, a museum researcher said, “If we keep losing sea ice we will probably see a reduction in their population but it probably wouldn’t drive them to extinction. Shipping traffic and acidification pose a greater threat. Vessel strikes are a hazard, while shipping pollution and ocean acidification put their prey, such as bivalves and clams, at risk.” 

Most experts advise that anyone who spots a walrus around such populated areas should give them space, leave them alone, and allow them to rest. 

Sources:

Ashworth, James. “Will Walruses Become Established in UK Waters?” Natural History Museum, 16 Nov. 2021. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2021/november/will-walruses-become-established-in-UK-waters.html. Accessed 22 July 2022.

Drake, Stian. “- Jeg var ikke redd.” dagbladet.no, 18 July 2022, https://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/jeg-var-ikke-redd/76684261. Accessed 22 July 2022.

“Freya the Walrus Has Been Spotted in Denmark after Northumberland Visit.” ITV News, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2022-02-24/freya-the-walrus-has-been-spotted-again-after-northumberland-visit. Accessed 22 July 2022.

““Freya” the Walrus Stirs up a Norwegian Town.” DW, 23 June 2022. www.dw.com, https://www.dw.com/en/freya-the-walrus-stirs-up-a-norwegian-town/av-62239899. Accessed 22 July 2022.

Hoare, Philip. “Walrus Leaves Arctic Comfort Zone for Snooze on Dutch Submarine.” The Guardian, 3 Nov. 2021. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/03/walrus-leaves-arctic-comfort-zone-for-snooze-on-dutch-submarine. Accessed 22 July 2022.

“Kjendis-hvalross angriper svane: – De fleste var i sjokk.” VGTV. tv.vg.no, https://tv.vg.no/video/241745/kjendis-hvalross-angriper-svane-de-fleste-var-i-sjokk. Accessed 22 July 2022.

“Walrus Freya creates chaos in Oslo. Researcher responds: “I don’t like what I see.”” NTB, 20 July 2022, https://sciencenorway.no/marine-animals-walrus/walrus-freya-creates-chaos-in-oslo-researcher-responds-i-dont-like-what-i-see/2056312. Accessed 22 July 2022.

“Travelling Walrus Hitches a Lift with Dutch Submarine.” DutchNews.Nl, 26 Oct. 2021. https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2021/10/travelling-walrus-hitches-a-lift-with-dutch-submarine/. Accessed 22 July 2022.

“Young Arctic Walrus ‘Freya’ Spotted in Shetland.” BBC News, 13 Dec. 2021. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-59636151.