ENCOUNTERS ON THE ICE
January 06, 2019 | Arctic Watch
Polar bears are one of the Arctic’s most iconic animals and sharing a moment with one of these large carnivores can be a moving experience. Nansen reflects on one of his most intimate polar bear encounters from this past season at Arctic Watch.
Polar bears are among the world’s most iconic, loved and recognizable animal. Large and charismatic, they are a mascot for the polar regions and are often a highlight of our guests’ trip to the Arctic.
As a photographer, I have been fortunate to have spent a disproportionate amount of time with polar bears over the years. Yet, the opportunity to share a polar bear moment with everyone who visits Arctic Watch or joins a Weber Arctic adventure is often a top priority for me when guiding.
One very memorable moment was during the first week of July on the frozen Northwest Passage. I had spotted a snowy owl while cruising the shore on the east coast of Somerset Island near Gifford Point. We followed this owl which led us to a large rock overlooking the icy scene. While my group observed the owl, I sat with my Swarovski binoculars and scanned the ice looking for polar bears. I quickly found one cruising the pack ice a fair distance out on the passage. The warm spring air mixed with the open leads created by breaking pack ice and a light breeze pushed in a dense fog which enveloped the frozen expanse. It soon became so thick that visibility dropped to a mere 5 meters. I was doubtful we would find the polar bear in the thick shroud of fog.
As we walked, the fog began to clear and swirling bands of mist would offer momentary glimpses of the pack ice in the distance. Emerging through a wispy curtain of grey, a bear appeared in the distance. The light cast beautiful blue and dark grey reflections on the melting ice and lit the scene with a soft glow. Cautiously, the bear approached us. He walked about 25 meters and sat beside a pond of meltwater and enjoyed our company for nearly half-an-hour while he chewed on old seal bones strewn on the ice. Eventually, he crossed his front paws and casually rested his chin on the ice. As a polar bear viewing moment it could not have been more perfect! Being at ground level with this beautiful well-mannered bear in his environment is how every encounter should be. His playground his rules. No vehicles, no crowds, no noise pollution. Just ice, a polar bear and happy grins on everyone’s face. As eerily as the bear arrived through the fog he eventually picked up camp and strolled off into the pack ice.
For many of our guests, this was their first bear encounter. I cherish the moment and the smiles brought to the faces of our small yet intrepid group. I looked over at Tessum who was also guiding that day and we both agreed that days such as these are what makes our job the best in the world!
Learn more about our trips to Arctic Watch here.