Monday, August 16, 2010

Nanook! Nanook! Polar Bear! Polar Bear!

We had to leave work early on Friday because there was a polar bear in the area.  It was a foggy morning and we were mapping a large stone feature about 3.5 km from camp.  We'd paused for coffee and a few minutes into the break Charles said "Nanook! Nanook! Polar Bear! Polar Bear! There on the ice..." and pointed at the large ice pan floating in front of the site.  Initially, the fog was so thick that it was very difficult to see the bear except when it was moving.

The bear was on ice 400-500 metres away from us, so there was no immediate threat.  We sat and watched it for a while to see if it was going to move towards us or away from us.  We made sure the shotgun was loaded and took out the satellite phone in case we needed to call for help.  The bear didn't seem too curious or hungry and took its time moving around the ice.  A gull was following it, looking for scraps.  I'm not sure if the bear was aware of us until it walked to the far end of the ice and seemed to catch our scent. 

Then it sat down and sniffed the air, looking upwind towards us.  The bear did that for a couple minutes before standing up, taking a deep breath, dropping back down on all fours, running away from us and then jumping into the sea and swimming away.  You could see it turning its head and checking for our scent every few seconds as it swam along.  About 15 minutes had passed from the time we first saw the bear to the time it was paddling away.  As the bear was swimming out of view the fog moved in and we could barely see the waters edge.  It appeared that the bear didn't want anything to do with us, but we were several kilometers from camp and with the poor visibility we decided to call the camp and ask for a boat pick up.  Luckily there were two small boats in the area assisting marine biologists and we were picked up about a within a few minutes of making the phone call.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Glad to see you left early even though your fuzzy friend seemingly disappeared. I too would rather have him in plain view 500m away, than wonder if he was going to reappear behind me out of the fog. Great Photos!

  2. Yeah, we had a short walk across the land to the pick-up spot and visibility dropped to 25-50 metres. Its pretty hard to focus on anything other than watching for black noses when visibility is that poor. I don't think I could have concentrated on a profile drawing under those conditions.

  3. Loved the exciting. Stay safe. Brenda


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