Freya, the Boat-Sinking Giant



The title of today’s article might lead you to believe we’re in for a tale of mythological proportions. A boat-sinking giant would not be out of place in the spheres of ancient gods. Fans of Norse mythology will recognize the name Freya, as one of the prominent goddesses in that world.

Other spellings include Freyja, Freyia, and Freja, but they all mean “the Lady” in Old Norse. She is associated with love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, gold, and seiðr, which is a magic ability for divining and influencing the future. Freyja rides a chariot drawn by two cats! Other than the “war” part, though, she does not seem to fit the mold of a “boat-sinking giant.”

Alas, today’s story does not partake of the Norse mythological setting, though we do venture to the northern climes of Europe.

Freja (1905) by John Bauer

A little under a year ago, we published an episode entitled “Wally the Wandering Walrus.” In that article, we followed the exploits of a walrus that left the arctic to tour Europe. Over the summer of 2021, Wally hit up Ireland, England, France, and Spain. Along the way, he frolicked on piers, sunbathed like a world champion, and even got a bit naughty, as he boarded some pleasure boats in England. Dinghys do not well tolerate massive, largely uncoordinated walruses.

Still, Wally garnered a hearty following around the world.

The year 2022 wanted to join in on the walrus hijinks. As you may have surmised from the setup, a walrus affectionately named Freya has journeyed south and is wrecking boats.

Freya lounging in Norway - photo by Tor Erik Schrder

Freya decided to take a different route from cousin Wally. She visited Britain, as he did, but then opted to turn northward, instead of south. Freya swam to Denmark and Sweden, before settling in Oslo, Norway, for an extended stay.

Normally, walruses stick to the frigid waters of the globe’s extreme northern reaches. Scientists believe Freya is about 1,200 miles away from home in Svalbard. Often, when large animals from the Arctic roam to abnormal spots, it means they are ill. Freya, on the other hand, is a hefty, healthy 1,300-pound behemoth. She spent the summer munching on mussels and scallops, enjoying the buffet that is the Baltic Sea.

Pinnipeds normally spend a lot of their time resting, taking in the sun and digesting food. In frosty waters, that process involves hopping onto ice floes. In the summer, the Baltic certainly does not feature frozen chunks on which Freya might lounge.

But they do have boats.

Freya hopping onto a boat that looks like an ice floe - photo by Trond Reidar Teigen

As you can see in the video above, the general public seems fascinated by Freya. Boatowners who have lost some expensive hardware? Not so much love for the walrus.

Area scientists have attempted to create special spots for Freya to sun herself since their warnings about avoiding close contact with the creature and parking boats in ways that discourage her from mounting them have largely gone unheeded.

Based on the video below, Freya mightily enjoyed her summer. Videos of critters at play that we don’t necessarily associate with recreation are always endearing. Like her predecessor Wally, Freya will likely head for colder waters as the days get shorter. 

In a nice, little coincidence, a children’s book, called Wally & Freya, was published earlier this spring. The story contains foxes, weasels, bears, owls, and other animals, but no walruses. Also, no Norse goddesses.

Will the walrus traveling streak continue in 2023?

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