Alaska's popular walrus cam streams again after a decade

May 21, 2015 byMark Thiessen
Alaska's popular walrus cam streams again after a decade
This May, 2015 photo provided by explore.org, shows walruses on a beach, recorded by a robotic camera on Round Island, Alaska. A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach is once again streaming on the Internet. The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out. But thanks to the philanthropic organization explore.org, the cam is again up and running.(explore.org via AP)

A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach with a Hitchcockian number of seabirds flying overhead is once again streaming to the Internet.

The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out, but a high-definition version is back now, thanks to a philanthropic organization that operates a series of nature webcams from around the planet. The walrus cam, part of the Pearls of the Planet series, can be viewed at: explore.org/live-cams/player/w … rus-cam-round-island.

A monetary grant from explore.org, along with other donations this year, have had an unintended benefit for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The funds are allowing the Alaska state government—struggling financially because of low oil prices—to put two paid staff members on the island about 400 miles southwest of Anchorage to not only welcome the handful of visitors it gets every year, but also to help prevent boats or aircraft from spooking the 2-ton walruses and sparking a stampede.

If the donation hadn't come through, Round Island would have been closed to visitors this year.

"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."

The state Department of Fish and Game worked with a private donor in 2005 to stream images from Round Island, part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary. The feed was sent over the Internet and featured at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, another donor this year, where it was widely popular with visitors.

But operational problems with the camera and a lack of funding eventually doomed the project.

This May, 2015 photo provided by explore.org, shows a robotic camera that will monitor wildlife this coming summer on Round Island, Alaska. A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach is once again streaming on the Internet. The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out. But thanks to the philanthropic organization explore.org, the cam is again up and running.(explore.org via AP)

Maria Gladziszewski, the acting deputy director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation, said the state had discussed looking for another partner.

It wasn't an active search until explore.org added the brown bear cams from Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve.

"I thought, 'Gee, I wonder if they'd be interested in doing a walrus cam?'" she said.

Gladziszewski called and found out Weingarten had always intended to feature walruses. "It was fortuitous, and we were off trying to make it happen," she said.

Weingarten said walruses are as majestic as the brown bears that inhabit Katmai, but for most people, they are even less accessible.

Round Island—which can only be reached by an hours-long boat ride from hub communities in southwest Alaska—had just 42 visitors last year. Only five of those camped out overnight in the primitive conditions.

Alaska's popular walrus cam streams again after a decade
This May, 2015 photo provided by explore.org, shows a robotic camera, rop right, and dozens of walruses on a beach being monitored on Round Island, Alaska. A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach is once again streaming on the Internet. The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out. But thanks to the philanthropic organization explore.org, the cam is again up and running.(explore.org via AP)

The four Round Island webcams allow up-close views of walruses that few people ever see in person.

"To be able to capture a walrus, not just 'a' walrus but a herd of walrus on a beach is beyond description," Weingarten said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

Up to 14,000 of the tusked mammals haul out on the island while the females are off raising their pups.

This May, 2015 photo provided by explore.org, shows walruses on a beach, recorded by a robotic camera on Round Island, Alaska. A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach is once again streaming on the Internet. The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out. But thanks to the philanthropic organization explore.org, the cam is again up and running.(explore.org via AP)

"It's important to show people and showcase what is out there," Gladziszewski said.

"This is an incredible resource to have and very, very difficult to get to," she said. "And to show people, from Bristol Bay to their desk in Indiana or wherever, it's an incredible opportunity."

Like in 2005, the cams will be offline for one week in the fall when Alaska Natives conduct a legal subsistence hunt on the island, she said.

Explore further: Big baby walrus coming to NYC aquarium

Related Stories

Walrus move to shore in northwest Alaska

September 19, 2013

Pacific walrus are gathering on the northwest coast of Alaska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun procedures to keep airplanes out of the area.

Webcams make Alaska bears accessible

July 24, 2012

(AP) — A new video initiative is bringing the famed brown bears of Alaska's Katmai National Park directly to computers and smartphones.

Groups sue to protect walrus from drilling

November 10, 2014

Six environmental groups have asked a judge to throw out a federal agency rule that concluded oil company exploration off Alaska's northwest coast will have a negligible effect on walrus.

Recommended for you

A world of parasites

May 25, 2018

Alex Betts, Craig MacLean and Kayla King from the Department of Zoology, shed light on their recent research published in Science, which addressed the impact that parasite communities have on evolutionary change and diversity.

Bumblebees confused by iridescent colors

May 25, 2018

Iridescence is a form of structural colour which uses regular repeating nanostructures to reflect light at slightly different angles, causing a colour-change effect.

A better B1 building block

May 25, 2018

Humans aren't the only earth-bound organisms that need to take their vitamins. Thiamine – commonly known as vitamin B1 – is vital to the survival of most every living thing on earth. But the average bacterium or plant ...

Plant symbioses—fragile partnerships

May 25, 2018

All plants require an adequate supply of inorganic nutrients, such as fixed nitrogen (usually in the form of ammonia or nitrate), for growth. A special group of flowering plants thus depends on close symbiotic relationships ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.