In Russia, Sea World Visits You. The Blubbery Memes that Keep on Giving.

by Chris Dixon

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Yesterday, a buddy of Scuttlefish commodore Brian Lam Tweeted a remarkable photo of a 3,000 pound walrus napping on the deck of a Russian submarine. Behind him, blithely ignoring the oddly cute, dagger tusked behemoth, stands a Russian sailor, flashing a pair of “V for Victories.” My initial response was, whoa, what the hell? 

It seemed that the picture was being re-Tweeted through the Interwebs faster than a Fox News Ebola rumor. I almost simply posted it as a single image with a snarky line pondering the fate of the sailor should the walrus awaken feeling angry or amorous. Or perhaps this was  the perfect followup to a story Carolyn Sotka just ran on Walruses running out of pack ice and resorting to massive crowding on any piece of dry land in the Arctic. Were things were now so bad, that they’re hauling out onto Russian subs?

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A huge gathering of Walrus on a small patch of dry Arctic land. Photo: Corey Accardo/AP

When it turned out that TheScuttle’s intrepid young wordsmith Owen James Burke, had actually run a piece on this submarine photo back in March, I hung up any idea of a re-post. But something about the brave Russian didn’t look quite right.  How did he get past the walrus to get into the shot when the walrus was covering the rear hatch? Was he photoshopped? I dug a little bit and found that this picture has been floating through the ether for a year. Like plenty of other Internet memes, the Walrus seems to be resurrected every few months as people forget about it, and someone else discovers it.

The photo also reminded me of an ad I recently saw for Hungry Hungry Hippos, The Movie. 

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It turns out that indeed, the sailor/walrus image is a fake, as pointed out by by University of Chicago professor Jerry A. Coyne of Why Evolution is True. Here’s the original, sans human.

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Coyne’s debunking blogpost also features a good Yakov Smirnov joke: “In Soviet Russia, Sea World visits you.” It turns out though, that there is a genuine picture of a Russian sailor with what seems to be the same walrus – thus offering further proof that pinnipeds are curious, intelligent, brave and gregarious, while humans are simply brave and stupid. This nuclear walrus was simply following a long tradition of pinniped/human maritime interaction that dates back as far as humanity.

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“In Russia, Sea World Visits You.” 

Over at SBNation, David Roth, imagined the Walrus as a sports hero.

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Tumbling farther down the rabbit hole, we see a such behavior is not limited to Walrus, with a pair of sea lions resting atop a different submarine, courtesy of Reddit.

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In San Francisco, a huge pack of argumentative sea lions takes up every square inch of free space at Pier 39.

Last year, Newport Beach boater James Gilkinson received the surprise of his life when a baby sea lion jumped onto his sailboat and decided to be his friend.

While a woman touring the island of South Georgia was befriended by a baby elephant seal.

While in England, a curious sea lion on the Thames River wanted nothing more than to play hide and seek with a golden retriever.

This walrus playing a saxophone went justifiably viral.

At this point, there’s only one way to make this post useful in any sort of fashion, and that’s in giving a pinniped some maritime literary credit. That job goes to Lewis Carroll, in the form of the epic The Walrus and The Carpenter from Through the Looking Glass. A nonsensical treatise that warns us against trusting any smooth talking walrus – especially if we’re edible.

The Walrus and the Carpenter. by Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

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The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

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“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

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I’ll leave you with this. Walrus submarine guy gets dropped off at one of the most remote, and pinniped-heavy man-made islands in the world – the Cortes Bank buoy. The cormorant is not amused.

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Photo(and Photoshop). Chris Dixon

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