A Community Newspaper for the way we live

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

Pacific Walrus utilize beaches around Cape Peirce as haulout areas on which to rest between feeding forays. These beaches are surrounded by sheer cliffs affording the walrus protection from predators, much like the beaches in Siberia. (Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge via Wikipedia)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
—Through the Looking-Glass

That is certainly wonderful nonsense from a bygone era (Louis Carroll, 1871), yet it foretells the not-so-wonderful nonsense of today where similar gibberish carries heavy political overtones.

I am thinking of the second episode of the new Netflix series called “Our Planet” that has gained widespread attention. It features the much loved 93 year old naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, narrating a disturbing scene where several walruses fall to their deaths over a steep cliff in Eastern Siberia along the Arctic Ocean. We are told that several hundred walruses perished in all, because they were forced to haulout in an area where Attenborough claims they never would have been if the sea ice had not retreated due to Global Warming:

“They do so out of desperation not choice.

Sir David Attenborough in 2015 when he was awarded the Bodley Medal. (Source: BBC and The Bodleian Libraries via Wikipedia)

“Their natural home is out on the sea ice, but the ice has retreated away to the north and this is the closest place to their feeding grounds.

“Every square inch is occupied, climbing over the tightly packed bodies is the only way across the crowd – those beneath can get crushed to death.

“In a desperate bid to avoid the crush they try to head towards the cliffs.

“But walruses’ eyesight out of the water is poor, but they can sense the others down below, as they get hungry they need to return to the sea.

“In their desperation to do so, hundreds fall from heights they should never have scaled.”

It makes a good story, but the story starts to fall apart when you look for the details. The show producer, Sophie Lanfear, and her film crew have refused to disclose fundamental details of the incident, such as location and time. Refusal to disclose details immediately moves the incident from the realm of science to that of fiction or worse, propaganda.

Walrus resting areas are common along the Siberian and nearby Alaskan coasts, as they have been for at least a century. When seasonal sea ice becomes scarce in the Arctic Ocean in September, walruses want to remain close to their hunting grounds in the shallow coastal waters. So they haul themselves out onto bare coastal beaches. With thriving populations, the resting areas can see thousands to tens of thousands of animals.

Polar bears on Cape Kozhevnikov. (Source: The Siberian Times. Photo by Maxim Deminov/WWF)

In fact, the population of all large marine mammals from walruses to polar bears and seals have greatly increased, due to an international treaty that prohibits their indiscriminate slaughter. Polar bear numbers have gone from 5,000 in 1970 to 30,000 to 40,000 today.

Walruses are so numerous that some haulouts reach 100,000 animals. That creates overcrowding, which can lead to many deaths when the herd stampedes back to the ocean where it is inherently safer. Some walruses make the fatal mistake of taking a shortcut over a cliff, while others are crushed if they do not move as fast as the walruses behind them.

What did Attenborough’s film crew actually observe?

This is where the story gets interesting. Those who have looked into the incident think that it is probably the incident in September 2017, near the small Russian settlement of Ryrkaypiy, which means ‘Place of the Walrus.’

The Siberian Times reported a much different scenario than Attenborough. Residents saw polar bears that were raiding the settlement also go after the walruses.

http://siberiantimes.com/ecology/others/news/village-besieged-by-polar-bears-as-hundreds-of-terrorised-walruses-fall-38-metres-to-their-deaths/“The polar bears were attracted by 5,000 walruses that appeared this year at a special protection zone in Chukotka. Many of the frightened flippered marine mammals fell off cliffs at Kozhevnikova Cape as they sought to flee the invaders. Several hundred fell to their deaths, and the polar bears then ate the carcasses.”

Map of Russia showing the location of Ryrkaypiy Siberia. (Source: The Siberian Times)

Even though the film crew acknowledged the presence of polar bears in a behind-the-scenes addendum, Attenborough did not mention them. A little honesty would have completely spoiled his Global Warming narrative and even worse, acknowledged that polar bears are obviously thriving on a walrus diet.

Such incidents are apparently common as agile 1,500 pound polar bears have a considerable advantage over lumbering 4,000 pound walruses on land, even if they are no match for them in the ocean. Stampeding some over a cliff is far easier and safer than confronting the walruses directly. American Indians used similar methods when they hunted bison with stone-age weapons.

If you enjoy old American Westerns like the 1948 movie ‘Red River’ with John Wayne, a more sinister explanation comes to mind. In the cattle drive depicted in that movie, a young cowboy accidentally creates a commotion by knocking over pots and pans that spook the restless herd into a wild and destructive stampede. Walrus herds are known to stampede in similar fashion and could have easily been frightened by the Netflix film crew itself or by their use of aerial photography from a helicopter or drone.

No wonder Attenborough and Netflix refuse to give details. As noted zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford points out:

“The lie being told by Attenborough and the film crew is that 200-300 walruses fell during the time they were filming, while in fact they filmed only a few: polar bears were responsible for the majority of the carcasses shown on the beach below the cliff. This is, of course, in addition to the bigger lie that lack of sea ice is to blame for walrus herds being onshore in the first place.”

Should Attenborough Retire?

All of this calls into question the personal integrity of David Attenborough. He is obviously allowing himself to be used to promote another of the false and highly emotional Global Warming narratives coming from the Arctic. Like an earlier video of a starving polar bear, these tearjerkers are supposed to win converts to a political cause that is dressed up as science.

Attenborough’s bad behavior is not limited to the walrus incident. In a recent BBC television production, titled “Climate Change: the Facts,” he talks about “incontrovertible” facts that paint a bleak future for this planet. Some have suggested that his BBC production should have been called “Climate: Change the Facts,” because it goes beyond even the UN IPCC climate hysteria.

According to Attenborough, Climate Change is the “greatest threat” to humanity in a thousand years. “We are facing the collapse of our societies.” “We must all share responsibility… for the future of life on earth.”

Coming from someone who has helped several generations to understand the wonders of nature, his dire warnings either carry great weight – or provoke vast disbelief that someone so loved could have sold out to such absolute nonsense. To decide between the two, we need to ask if Attenborough is really a scientist or just a broadcaster with a very effective presentation style. He is certainly the latter, but no more than a naturalist by training. The physical sciences, with their much more rigorous demands, are obviously beyond this 93 years old.

Perhaps it is time for Sir David to retire, before he completely ruins his reputation and relinquishes his status as a British ‘national treasure’ for a ‘national disgrace.’
Attenborough reminds me of another famous Englishman who should have retired before he made a fool of himself about 125 years ago. Lord Kelvin did great work in his younger years but fell into the “Kelvin Fallacies” with advancing age. “Man will never fly,” and “the motor car will never be practical,” he predicted.

Gordon J. Fulks holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago’s Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research. He can be reached at gordonfulks@hotmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Sponsors