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Fat-Tusk Walrus

Updated on August 25, 2010
Fat-Tusk Walrus, rickzimmerman 2010
Fat-Tusk Walrus, rickzimmerman 2010

Ay matey! Here ye see the ideal prey of that famous scrimshander — that’s a scrimshaw artist to ye uninitiated! — Edward Burdett of the Nantucket Burdetts of whaling and sea-faring fame.

Most seasons, the young Sir Burdett, already steady on the rolling deck of a whaler by his teens, would while away the quiet hours carving and staining the handy tooth of the latest catch of mighty sperm whale. Such a tooth would offer a fairly generous canvas to skilled hands, upwards of 7” long for the largest of ‘em, and conical in shape as well.

But they’d pale next to the glorious tusks of this mighty walrus. For the Fat-Tusk Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus sp. Rotundodenta) does indeed have fat tusks, almost always one fatter and longer than the other. (For reasons as yet undetermined by marine scientists, in about 93% of cases, the left tusk is the larger of the two.)

Fat-Tusk Walrus tusks can reach 50” in length and 36” or more in circumference at the base — plenty of working area for the creative type! On one sizable F-TW tusk, it is said that ol’ Edward B. carved scenes illustrating the entire Old Testament!

Since a righteously carved tusk might sell at auction today for upwards of $300,000, there are stories of F-TWs hurt by the recent recession having their larger tusk pulled by Anchorage dentists, for sale on the black market.


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