As the Great Pandemic Hoax that we personally set in motion* continues to put everyone’s hopes of normalcy on ice, there are locals like Wally the Walrus making famous tours of forbidden places and famous tourists like Colin Farrell doing seemingly forbidden things locally.
Of course we have to start with Wally since we’re a local paper foremost interested in the locals, not because he’s become mainstream and tabloid news fodder for every publication whose minions are knowledgable enough to access the internet (there’s always going to be some who it turns out aren’t as smart as Wally). The walrus apparently is on a tour that so far is ignoring all Covid rules and exceeds 4,000 kilometers since departing his home in Svalbard (“north of Norway,” as one tabloid declares). He was first spotted in mainland Europe in March off the coast of Valentia Island in Ireland, and since has made spots in places such as France, Spain and most recently the UK as he may be heading home. Lots of folks are taking charming selfies with Wally in the background and lots of (usually different) folks are taking photos of Wally inviting himself aboard small boats of varying types (many of which don’t seem well-designed for him to climb over the side without swamping them). But whether Wally warrants wonder or willies with watchers, warnings about responsible behavior to protect him are being issued by Seal Rescue Ireland (which gives us pause, considering walruses make occasional meals of seals). Advice includes not publicly disclosing his specific location so crowds don’t show up and reporting sightings to SRI’s hotline at 0871955393 since “we are working with a number of wildlife organisations who have been monitoring his movements since he was first spotted last March, to minimise the risk of stress and injury and in hopes that he will make his way back to his native northern waters.” The group speculates Wally, like other Arctic creatures, is being forced to explore new areas as climate change melts the sea ice that’s their natural habitat, and “this isn’t the first Arctic visitor Ireland has received in recent years (like Cloudberry the Ringed Seal) and he likely won’t be the last…”
Speaking of human acts earning seals of disapproval, we’re guessing the SRI folks aren’t too keen on the currently airing TV/streaming series “The North Water” which, according to a New York Times review, “is a 19th-century Arctic adventure, complete with creaking ice, implacable storms, mystical polar bears and seal clubbing.” The main characters are a surgeon and a harpooner who apparently have to cope with “shipboard rape and murder and a conspiracy to commit potentially deadly insurance fraud.” Which almost sounds better than the paranormal aliens and zombies who typically roam the alternative facts version of Svalbard, although it seems the famed Farrell plays a protagonist named Henry Drax who is “casually homicidal, (but) has a baseline chivalry and a gruff seductiveness” (suggesting maybe he’s kin to the Bond supervillain Hugo Drax). Ultimately it gets a middling review as the series “feels like a story you’ve read before…”
And speaking of things (yeah, we’re stuck on that transition cliché again this week) we’ve read before that are utter fiction, children’s author Jeanne Bender has us screaming like a spoiled toddler by continuing the never-ending nonsense about Svalbard’s supposedly massive polar bear population, claiming the inspiration for her new book “On Ice” that’s set here was discovering the archipelago “had the largest concentration of polar bears in the world.” OK, we’ll just repeat in a non-screaming voice for the 9,079,572,306th* time, SVALBARD DOES NOT HAVE MORE POLAR BEARS THAN PEOPLE!!! Total people: about 2,900. Total bears: about 270 (NOT 2,700). She does describe the book (and series it’s a part of) as something of a travelogue for 3-4th grade readers, and in expounding on her impressions of Svalbard life after chatting with teachers and such of such local youths, notes the kids see Longyearbyen as safe, a fun place where they get to drive their own mini-snowmobiles, there’s a lot of outdoor/cultural stuff to do…and, oh yeah, they don’t worry about polar bears since having teachers carry guns all the time outdoors is just part of everyday life. BTW, one of the character in the book is a baby walrus named Pinni who is “pinniped.” Yeah, we thought it was that other word at first as well, but consider this your Edutainment-by-Googling lesson here for the week (as if we’ve ever bothered trying to educate anyone about anything in the space on any previous occasion).
* Not really, but it’s a fun thing to write.