Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Polar Bears ....
I have to start this post by saying I did not photograph this bear on this trip. I took this shot in 2002 while on my first Arctic expedition. We were on a different ship at the time, cruising through the Svalbard Archipelago, some 600 miles south of the North Pole. Ice was very much in evidence. We saw numerous bears on that trip. They are fine swimmers but cannot swim very long distances. They need be on ice floes in order to hunt for the ringed or bearded seals that are the mainstay of their diets. With global warming the ice is melting earlier and forming later every year. The bears become stranded on land far from the ice pack. Though they may feed on ducks and geese or even berries, with loss of their ice habitat and the thick blanket of fat a diet of seals provides beneath their fur, they are in danger of starving and have difficulty reproducing. We did not encounter ice floes like this on this trip, but we were much farther south, even though we were above the Arctic Circle at times.
However I did see two polar bears on this last trip one early morning before breakfast, when we loaded into the Zodiacs and made our way through the Lower Savage Islands. The name of these Islands is apt ... they are cold and bleak. It was windy, foggy and sleeting at the time, sometimes heavily, so I did not bring my camera along, only binoculars. Though I was mostly warm, I had brought the wrong gloves with me and by the end of the hour and a half long trip I thought I would lose some fingers. I had also packed the wrong rainpants, throwing in an old pair of light weight ones instead of the the heavy duty ones I would have packed if I'd had my head on straight. We stayed in the Zodiacs the whole time, no walking, no moving around. I thought about how one might survive in an environment such as this if we couldn't make it back to the ship. I came away with a deep respect for the Inuit peoples who inhabit this land.
For birds on this stop we say Fulmars, Black Guillemots, Red Throated and Common Loons, Eider ducks, Glaucous Gulls and a small bird called a Northern Wheatear.
For more info on Polar Bears go here.