ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A popular webcam showing large male Pacific walruses lying on the beach with a Hitchcockian number of seabirds flying overhead is once again streaming to the Internet.
The high-definition stream from Alaska's remote Round Island had been dormant for nearly a decade after private funding ran out, but a high-definition version is back now, thanks to a philanthropic organization that operates a series of nature webcams from around the planet. The walrus cam, part of the Pearls of the Planet series, can be viewed at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/walrus-cam-round-island.
A monetary grant from explore.org, along with other donations this year, have had an unintended benefit for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The funds are allowing the Alaska state government — struggling financially because of low oil prices — to put two paid staff members on the island southwest of Anchorage to not only welcome the handful of visitors it gets every year, but also to help prevent boats or aircraft from spooking the massive walruses and sparking a stampede.
If the donation hadn't come through, Round Island would have been closed to visitors this year.
The state Department of Fish and Game worked with a private donor in 2005 to stream images from Round Island, part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary. The feed was sent over the Internet and featured at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, another donor this year, where it was widely popular with visitors.
But operational problems with the camera and a lack of funding eventually doomed the project.
Round Island — which can only be reached by an hours-long boat ride from hub communities in southwest Alaska — had just 42 visitors last year. Only five of those camped out overnight in the primitive conditions.
The four Round Island webcams allow up-close views of walruses that few people ever see in person.
Up to 14,000 of the tusked mammals haul out on the island while the females are off raising their pups.
Like in 2005, the cams will be offline for one week in the fall when Alaska Natives conduct a legal subsistence walrus hunt on the island, she said.