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Round Island: Where The Singing Of Walruses Enchants Travelers

An isolated island of Alaska where walruses enchant travelers with their marine song, and the place where their existence is preserved from dangers.

In the heart of the North Pacific, more towards the icy areas of the Arctic, there are a series of small islands that belong to wild Alaska. The seven remote islands that are difficult to access are part of the Walrus Islands Game Sanctuary in Alaska. The best known of these is Round Island, the island where walruses can be heard singing on the beach, and where they spend time to recover after the mating season.

Haul-out sanctuaries of the Pacific walrus

The Walrus Islands Hunting Sanctuary is a set of seven islands in total, where the lives of these mammals are protected. Formed by Round Island, Summit Island, Crooked Island, High Island, Black Rock, and The Twins, since 1960, the sanctuary has been in charge of preserving marine biodiversity. Their primary goal is to protect one of North America's largest haul-out ground sites for the Pacific walrus.

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Every summer, large numbers of male walruses gather on the shores of the small islands to recover after the mating season. Meanwhile, the females head further north, by the edge of the receding ice, in search of a suitable site to give birth to their babies.

Walruses are sociable animals. They live in large groups and are accustomed to interacting with each other. So they come to the sanctuary islands in large groups and then pile up on the sand. It’s not an easy journey through which they must pass before reaching the right place for their rest. Swimming in icy waters for long periods has its consequences, and as they come out of the sea, one can see a pinkish color on their skin. This is due to constant contact with the waters at extreme temperatures. But once they rest on the shores, they gradually regain their dark color as blood circulation reactivates to their extremities.

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A captivating sea singing

Of all the islands that make up the sanctuary, Round Island is perhaps the most important of them. It can even be reached, although not in an easy way, of course. Yet, anyone who wishes to observe the heavenly nature of Alaska's icy ecosystem can visit it and delight their eyes with the thousands of walrus specimens that arrive there each spring. The most experienced campers are allowed to stay for a few days to live the natural experience in all its splendor.

Those who dare to reach Round Island must embrace the silence and renounce the thunderous sounds. Even if they weigh almost a ton, possess four inches thick skin, and have large sharp tusks, walruses are very sensitive to sound. Any noise will produce a rampage of walruses that will try to quickly reach the sea to protect themselves. Since they are animals so large and heavy, many can die in the turmoil, so visitors to the sanctuary must adopt the tranquility of silence.

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The only sound that captivates the ears of the campers who dare to reach Alaska, besides the waves of the sea, is the song of the walruses. It’s a song like no other in the world that resembles a metallic sound from a bell, but much softer. Round Island is one of the most remote paradises in  Alaska, and one where walruses can be seen at their best. By soaking up in their strange beauty and sharing the same air as these animals, the need to protect our planet becomes more real, the only place where such a sublime creature inhabits.

Text and photos courtesy of Ecoosfera
Translated by Gaby Flores

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