How Thor swam from his Arctic home to the shores of north Europe

Thor’s incredible 3,000-mile journey: How celebrity walrus named after Norse god swam from his Arctic home to the shores of north Europe – before heading back after UK New Year visit

  • The marine mammal delighted crowds in Scarborough, Yorks, on New Year’s Eve
  • But he has finally returned to the sea to continue journey back to Arctic circle 
  • Appearance came weeks after he was spotted resting up on Southampton beach
  • Thor was also seen off the coast of Netherlands, Belgium and France last month

Celebrity walrus Thor has left Yorkshire to return to his Arctic home following an incredible 3,000-mile journey that saw him swim past France and the Netherlands before visiting two English coastal towns.

The marine mammal delighted crowds in Scarborough on Friday, weeks after he was spotted resting up on a beach in Southampton.

Such was the excitement, a cordon was erected around him to keep buoyant crowds in place, with wildlife experts having warned that he was ‘taking a break’ before continuing his journey north.

Thor is believed to have left his home in the Arctic circle earlier this winter and may have travelled from as far as Canada before he was spotted on the coast of Zeeland, in the south east corner of the Netherlands, on November 6.

The Arctic walrus continued his journey along the North Sea towards and was seen along the Belgian coast, before reaching the English Channel and the shores of Dieppe and Brittany in northern France.

Thor was pictured resting ashore at the port of Dieppe, Normandy, with no signs of ill health on November 19.

Local authorities again cordoned off the area from the public with the warning of giving the walrus a wide berth, before he dropped back into the water the following day.

More than three weeks later, the walrus was spotted resting on Calshot Beach in Hampshire.

Fisherman Darren McKell was out with his wife Caroline and son Luke in the early hours when they found the ‘big lump’ on December 11.

The 49-year-old said: ‘It was unbelievable and such a shock. I thought it was a seal at first but as I got closer I saw it was huge and it was a walrus.

‘It was absolutely amazing to see something like that, especially in these waters. I hadn’t realised how rare it was to see a walrus here.

‘It was lovely to see but something you’d never expect. I’ve never seen a walrus in the wild as they don’t normally live in these areas. Seeing the walrus was a double-take moment.’

Local wildlife experts asked people not to disturb the creature after saying he appeared to be ‘taking a break’ in Scarborough

The moment Thor finally returned to the sea after resting at the seaside town of Scarborough in Yorkshire

The marine mammal arrived in Scarborough on Friday night and drew huge crowds to the harbour on New Year’s Eve

Scarborough’s New Year fireworks display was cancelled to avoid disturbing or discomforting the walrus

 Thor is believed to have left his home in the Arctic circle earlier this winter and may have travelled from as far as Canada

It is believed to be the first time a walrus has been spotted in Yorkshire, and a cordon was put around him to keep excited crowds from getting too close

British Divers Marine Life Rescue were at the scene alongside coastguard, with medics checking on the large mammal.

During his time at the beach, a video showed the moment the walrus grunted at a group of people who got a little too close.

His sighting was said to be ‘extremely rare’ and he was believed to be heading back to the Arctic circle when he returned to the water hours later.

But Thor reappeared in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough on New Year’s Eve.

It is believed to be the first time a walrus has been spotted in Yorkshire.

Council officials cancelled the town’s New Year fireworks in order to avoid disturbing the mammal, which is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Speaking on Saturday, local resident Richard Coulson, 51, said: ‘I live just round the corner from where it actually is and the traffic up and down our road – it’s just like a summer’s day, it really is absolutely teeming with cars and people. It’s amazing how much attention it’s brought.

‘It’s been well protected – it’s been cordoned off so you can’t get within 20 feet of it.

‘It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one. It’s huge. We see seals quite regularly round Scarborough coastline but something of that size, it’s enormous.

 Thor arrived in Scarborough on Friday evening, spending two days resting before returning to the water

The Sea Life Scarborough aquarium said its animal care team monitored the walrus’s situation, along with the RSPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue

‘You respect nature when you see something of that size. Its tusks are bigger than my arms.’

Stuart Ford, who runs the Sealife Safari boat tour agency, said: ‘I was going down to my boat and there it was on the slipway – magnificent. It’s got to be half a ton.

‘I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime, first-time-ever thing in Scarborough to see.’

The Sea Life Scarborough aquarium said its animal care team had monitored the walrus’s situation, along with the RSPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDLMR).

RSPCA inspector Geoff Edmond, who was with the walrus on Friday night and Saturday morning prior to his departure, said it does not appear to be sick or injured, and encouraged people to enjoy the sight from a respectful distance.

Mr Edmond said: ‘We understand it’s exciting and unusual to have the walrus take up a temporary residence, however, it’s in his best interests to be left alone as much as possible, so we’re asking people to remember he is a wild animal and avoid the temptation to get near to him and disturb him.

‘We would also remind everyone that the walrus is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and so disturbing the animal may constitute an offence.’

But Thor finally returned to the water on New Year’s Day, departing to cheers from locals.

The walrus surfaced for a few times before finally disappearing into the darkness to continue his journey back to the Arctic circle. 

Thor the walrus pictured during a brief stop-off at Calshot beach in Hampshire, not far from Southampton

Members of the public line a cordon put in place to protect the marine mammal in Calshot, which is protected under UK law

Beth Clyne, a BDLMR medic, tweeted: ‘Originally from the Arctic, “Thor” the Walrus hauled out on the Harbour slipway at Scarborough Friday night where he remained for c18hrs to rest and regain his energy. 

‘Estimated to be around 8yrs old, he’s quite young for a Walrus and may only just be maturing.

‘As Medics, we also devoted a large amount of our time to the public. I really enjoyed talking and educating 100’s upon 100’s of the interested, respectful members of the public. Some were so kind to offer drinks, food and encouraging words to keep us going in the rain and cold!

‘Despite the crowds, he seemed to remain relatively unphased and comfortable although, a couple of times once the tide went out or he fancied a change, he would move from the bumpy cobbles & waddle over to the flatter concrete

She added: ‘After hours of him teasing us (I thought he was going to rest again) I was so excited and relieved when he finally made his way back to sea! We sprinted to the end of the harbour where we watched him surface a few times before disappearing into the darkness.’ 

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