In Search of the Polar Bear

For our summer holiday we decided to go on a circumnavigation of Svalbard, mostly for Polar Bears. Fortunately for us we were in luck, we saw 13!
Our first Bear came on day one, certainly a nice start to the voyage! The Polar Bear was on an island, feeding on Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua eggs. It was constantly being mobbed by the defensive parents and it was very nervous. That meant that when we went out on zodiacs to get a closer look, it moved to the other side of the (small) island. We saw a few family parties of Common Eiders next to the island too as they choose to nest with the Arctic Terns for their protective nature.
Day two brought our second Polar Bear, spotted by someone in our zodiac on a cruise around a glaciated bay. We saw it before we had even entered the bay, which meant that we didn’t have much time for the rest of the excursion! It was a very dirty specimen, easy to see when it walked in front of a patch of snow or ice, though it wasn’t in bad condition.
On day three we came across no less than three bears on a single slope, showing absolutely no interest in each other! They were also a mile inland which is unusual in its own right!
Day five heralded the best Bear sighting of the whole trip, at somewhere where we would never have dreamed of seeing a Polar Bear! We were cruising a bird cliff, full of nesting Brunnich’s Guillemots (Thick-Billed Murres), Black Guillemots and Kittiwakes, when someone spotted a Polar Bear halfway up! Glaucous Gulls were continuously mobbing the Bear, even drawing blood! The Polar Bear got his revenge however, and swiped at one of the gulls and killed it! All of the staff said they had never seen this kind of behaviour in their life and that I probably would never see it again!
Day six had the same number of Polar Bears as day three, but a little bit different. We were zodiac cruising Duck Island, a nature reserve known for its breeding wildfowl, when we found a collared female Polar Bear with a cub! It was obvious that it was a female guarding the cub and not a male eating the cub (they often do) because it is not possible to put a collar on a male as a male’s neck is thicker than its head! However, we did find a male Polar Bear on the island opposite the one the mother and cub were on, just patrolling the stretch of coast.
I would say that would be target achieved!

Super Bear!

Super Bear!


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