Jun 04, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
An early call over the P.A. system by our expedition leader, Brent, brought almost everyone to the decks of the ship or to a forward-facing window. During the night, the ship’s ice pilot, Magnus, had gently pushed the ship’s bow into a vast, solid sheet of fast ice. But the reason for the early announcement was our first sighting of polar bears. In the distance—but easily seen through binoculars or a spotting scope from the bridge—was a female bear with two young first-year cubs. Another bear, some distance from the female, was sprawled on the ice.
Fast ice is the favorite habitat for ringed and bearded seals, both of whom are a polar bear’s main prey. To avoid disturbing the bears, there was a hush on deck (sound carries easily across the cold ice and in cold air). At one point, a small, white, arctic fox who was feeding approached the bear and some of the guests even caught a glimpse of them together.
Following breakfast, we continued our search, heading south. We spotted walruses on an ice floe, and the ship approached them very slowly so we could get a good look and then ease away, letting the animals continue their rest. As the day ended, we again saw a number of bears either patiently hunting or steadily walking across the fast ice. Even after dinner, in the 24-hour daylight of the Arctic summer, we searched the ice.
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