Kolyuchin Island, Chukotka, Russia

Aug 15, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Had you been on the bridge of National Geographic Orion early this morning as we approached the north tip of Kolyuchin Island, as the first bear was sighted—the first polar bear of the trip—you might’ve heard a loud whooshing sound. That sound was expedition leader Jimmy’s sigh of relief. We had found a bear; we would undoubtedly find more; any anxiousness on that score was soon dispelled.

In fact, during the course of the day we found a ton more bears: on our Zodiac cruise in the morning, on our second one in the afternoon from a different location, and from the ship while cruising by bird cliffs and walrus haul-outs. At the end of the day, no one could really remember how many—but there were a lot. Plus hundreds of walrus and uncountable numbers of seabirds, including, yes, puffins. We had both tufted and horned, charmingly perched on their front-porch ledges up on the cliffs.

So, today we checked a number of things off our collective list, to Jimmy’s relief. But the experience didn’t feel so much like checking a list as it did like passing through a gateway. Kolyuchin Island is, in a way, our portal to the Arctic and its surprising and spectacular abundance of wildlife. North of the island stretches an empty ocean, and beyond it, the vast polar ice pack and Wrangel Island. We sail there now.

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About the Author

Kevin Clement


Not many people can say they live year-round inside Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park (the actual number is about 10), but Kevin Clement is one. He also lived for many years in Denali National Park. Nowadays, however, he spends most of his time guiding ecotourism and adventure travel trips on all seven continents.

About the Photographer

Eric Guth

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Eric began work with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in 2006 as a means to see the world, work with great photographers and engage his environmental studies degree beyond the classroom. His initial years with the company were spent working the waters of Southeast Alaska and Baja California. His move to the National Geographic Explorer in 2008 helped earn him the experience and knowledge needed to establish himself as a trusted boat handler, naturalist and respected photographer in nearly all the environments Lindblad-National Geographic travels.

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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