Polar Bear time
The banging on the cabin doors up and down the length of the corridor to the words ‘bear on a seal kill’ yanked me out of my troubled sleep. It was three in the morning, and I had been asleep for all of four hours. Luckily I was already in the polar photography groove and had slept fully clothed, so it was boots on and out the door. It was Polar Bear time
I went up onto the main deck where most of the group were milling around getting their cameras set up on the tripods. We were experiencing 24hours of daylight so it was pretty bright out there and the big male was easy to spot. He kept his large head down as he ate with the Glaucous and Ivory gulls flying around for company. On the odd occasion, he looked up as the ship neared, only to resume feeding on the seal carcass. We watched him until he had finished eating and started cleaning himself, rolling around in the ice and snow. Would he hang around or move away from the ship like so many other bears had done?
The whining noise of the onboard crane indicated we were going to launch a Zodiac and try to get closer. During the next few minutes, the crew lowered the Zodiac alongside the ship, and we clambered aboard to head over to the bear. No sooner than we drifted up to the edge of the pack ice, he stopped cleaning himself and walked over to have a look at us.
I was using the wonderful Canon 70-200mm Mk II with a 1.4x converter, and he was starting to fill the frame rather quickly. I admit to nervously looking up to Chris (Zodiac pilot and Bear guard) and he was smiling, his right hand never leaving the throttle of the outboard motor. It was going to be one of those wonderful wildlife encounters, I could feel it.
Pete Cairns, our tour leader, was sitting next to me and had only brought along his 500mm, so we briefly swapped lenses and carried on shooting. The bear was really filling the frame at this point.
We spent what seemed like an hour with this male, as he stood at the edge looking across the extremely narrow piece of water to us. I wondered whether he was contemplating a swan dive into the Zodiac or if he was just sniffing at these weird creatures before him. Nevertheless, the shutters kept tripping, and everyone got cards full of great shots.
Convinced that these unwashed creatures were not edible or worth the effort, he wondered off and settled down for a snooze while we drifted back to the MS Origo in a daze. A proper wildlife encounter, enjoyed by all.
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