In Greek arktikos literally means of the Bear and that is what everyone goes to Spitsbergen to see. While there is never a guarantee that you will encounter any of the Arctic’s nomadic wildlife, a Spitsbergen voyage is your best chance of finding the polar bear in its natural environment.
Svalbard is a protected archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic and Spitsbergen is its largest island.
Up early to get a shower before the morning wakeup call I hear the call, “We have been successful in our search for wildlife. Put on your gear and join us on deck as the captain maneuvers the ship in for a close look at a mother polar bear and her two cubs.” There will be no more calls as we go into silent mode, and the massive ship slowly puts us within camera range of the bear family.
On the eastern side of the island in the pack ice both bridge, expedition staff and passengers all join the watch for bears. Binoculars scan the white landscape looking for that vanilla colored dot far off in the distance. Sometimes it’s an ice bear – dirty snow-an optical allusion. There is nothing like the thrill of hearing, “bear at ten o’clock” and the ship turns in that direction making its slow approach to our target. It could be a bear with a kill, multiple bears feeding on a carcass of a whale or a lone hunter taking a nap. Occasionally, you can see the black tongue flicking out of the bear’s mouth as it makes its retreat from the ship and other times a bold bear comes so close you can see the nose working to decipher the new unusual smells coming from the ship.
If you happen on a bear with a seal kill you are likely to see the ivory gull waiting to finish the remains. This gull is all white with black eyes and feet and a yellow bill. Polar bears usually only consume the blubber as it offers them the most calories. This leaves the meat for the Arctic foxes, ivory gulls and other scavengers to clean up.
There’s still space on this season’s voyages to Spitsbergen. You can sail to the land of the midnight sun and see the majesty of the Arctic. Call us at 888-484-2244 in the US or Canada or 541-317-8929 outside of the USA or email me [email protected] to talk about a polar adventure.