A Russian Navy vessel out on a science expedition was attacked and may have been sunk, not by an enemy ship, but by a walrus protecting her calves, officials say.
The joint expedition by Russia’s Northern Fleet and Geographical Society was sailing in the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic Ocean last week when the incident occurred.
Russian military officials said in a statement that the vessel was attacked as researchers were making a landing at Cape Heller on Wilczek Land, an island on the archipelago.
“A group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus who attacked an expedition boat when protecting her cub,” the Russian military statement reads, according to the Barents Observer, an English-language news site in the region.
The Russian Navy said “serious troubles were avoided” and that the crew was able to get away without harming the animals.
However, the Russian Geographical Society said the attack had one casualty: The landing boat.
“The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided,” the Geographical Society’s statement reads, per the Barents Observer.
All crew members safely made it to the shore, the Geographical Society also said. The groups said the expedition continues.
According to a 2018 article on walrus interactions with humans published in the peer-reviewed journal Ambio, the animals have been known to be aggressive, especially if their calves are threatened.
© 2019 USA Today
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.