In the autumn of 2017, about 250 walruses in Russia, having climbed up to rocky slopes overlooking a beach, just walked over the edge. When these animals encounter hard surfaces, they to meet them, hauling their two-ton bulks onto floating pieces of ice. Haldane once wrote a famous essay in which he described what large falls do to progressively larger animals.
When they fall, they flop off those low platforms into the accommodating water. A mouse “gets a slight shock and walks away,” he wrote.
Also, in the sequence, it looks as if the beach beneath the teetering walruses is relatively empty. This confusion arises from the ways in which documentaries elide space and time.
Lanfear clarifies that the sequence includes footage from two separate beaches—one with the 100,000-strong congregation and one with the falls.
Contrary to popular belief, not even lemmings dive off cliffs. says what other nature series have omitted In the summer, Pacific walruses forage for shellfish in the waters between Alaska and Russia, before hauling up onto sea ice to rest and raise their young.
But in recent years, Arctic sea ice has been thinner and sparser. As these icy platforms have retreated, walruses have increasingly been forced to haul out onto solid land—in the thousands.
The animals arrived almost overnight, while the team slept in a cramped hut.
“It was like 100,000 Chewbaccas outside,” says Lanfear.
When he started, haul-outs were rare in the northerly Chukchi Sea; now many sites there regularly heave with walruses.
With Kochnev’s help, the seven-person team filmed one of the largest haul-out sites—a single beach where 100,000 walruses tessellate into a solid red mat of tusks and blubber.