While traversing frigid Arctic waters, a Russian Navy vessel met its match — a mighty mother walrus defending her calves.
Battered by the tusked mammal's attacks, the tugboat Altai sank into the sea, according to the Russian news outlet The Barents Observer. Luckily, the boat's crew of Navy service members and researchers made it safely ashore on a smaller vessel.
The boat had been winding through the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a lengthy chain of islands in the northeastern Barents Sea, according to a report from the Russian Ministry of Defense. The researchers aboard intended to follow the path of 19th-century explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht, who discovered the archipelago, and study plants, animals and glaciers along the way, according to a statement issued by the Russian Geographical Society. When the team landed on Cape Geller off the island of Wilczek Land, they encountered a certain female walrus and her calves.
The military statement notes no sunken boat or loss of equipment, but according to the Russian Geographical Society, "the boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader," as translated by Military.com.
The Northern Fleet servicemen "were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them," adds the military statement, as translated by CNN.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Nicoletta Lanese is the health channel editor at Live Science and was previously a news editor and staff writer at the site. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz and degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in The Scientist, Science News, the Mercury News, Mongabay and Stanford Medicine Magazine, among other outlets. Based in NYC, she also remains heavily involved in dance and performs in local choreographers' work.