Sunday, November 22, 2009

Arctic Odyssey Part 3

Did I tell you that polar bears are somewhat elusive? They are also damned hard to spot in the Arctic, it's that whole white bear, white background sort of thing. Actually polar bears are not truly white, they are an off white creamy colour. It's the seal fat that does it, the more creamy their fur the more seals they have eaten.  I'm blathering aren't I. Well sitting on an icebound ship in dense fog with limited 'facilities' can do that sort of thing to a person and we had been sitting icebound for two days, and going nowhere fast. Actually it wasn't so much the ice as the fog, thick smothering freezing fog. Sucking in a breath of this stuff made your lungs start to panic as the freezing damp air plummetted to their depths, a few minutes outside and your chest hurt from the constant effort of doing the most natural of things, breathing.

There was of course another reason for not being on deck a far more frightening reason. The ice around the ship is constanly moving and as it moves pressure ridges rise around the hull of the ship. They make handy steps for an inquisitive polar bear who can smell the human rations onboard. So for fifty four hours we hunkered down and passed the time with out fellow passengers listening to talks about the possible effects of the depletion of the oozone layer, (devastating to polar bears), baby gliders, (more on that later), and the arctic fox. Whilst most of us had our hearts set on an encounter with a polar bear her Ladyship was desperate to see the arctic fox.

It was mid afternoon when the fog finally vanished it took only a matter of minutes as a wind from the north swept down and rolled it southward. Eager to get some fresh air most people returned to their cabins to kit up. As his Lordship and I were heading for the deck a hushed message came over the intercom, "There's a polar bear on the ice directly ahead of us, everyone silent please as we are going to attempt to get closer to it."

So as we crept up onto the deck our heartbeats were pounding so loudly it was all I could do to stop myself from sshing everyone I passed. Peering over the side my breath caught in my throat, right there just a matter of a few hundred feet away lay the most amazing creature I have ever encountered. It was sleeping, just curled up on the ice... sleeping. The engines had been cut and with everyone on board holding their breath the silence was intense. All eyes taking in the huge bear, sleeping, totally unphased by the bulk of the ship or the voyeurs it carried. This was his kingdom and he knew it. An icy thread laced my cheek and I realised that I was crying.


He lay there for a while, just sniffing the air and taking it all in his stride, then he simply looked around at his paparazzi and got up and sauntered away.









My breath still catches when I see him.




20 at confession:

Jimmy Bastard said...

Blether away hen, I'm lapping up every minute of it.

English Rider said...

Very Cool! (pun inadvertent, but not retracted)

St Jude said...

Jimmy - thanks hun, I can blether for hours.

English Rider - I like the pun, very good.

Kim Ayres said...

Superb - so glad you got to see one closer up - and get the photos for us to see :)

St Jude said...

Kim - I have more to come... am I boring you yet?

Maggie May said...

Ooooooh. That brought out goose bumps. very descriptive!

Nuts in May

Stinkypaw said...

Wow! THses shots are beautiful. That bear looked so peaceful while napping. Dis you "touch up" the colours on the montains or they were really that blue?

Meg said...

That is so amazing! What an awesome experience that must have been.

Wandering Coyote said...

Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful! The pose he's in in the top picture reminds me of my cat when she takes a nap!

St Jude said...

Maggie - It gives me goosebumps everytime I think of the Arctic and polar bears.

Stinkypaw - Because of the clarity of the air the blues really do show up like that. The conditions are changing constantly so the greyer shots were in the mist then seconds later the mist clears.

Meg - It was an awesome experience.

Wandering Coyote - He looked really cuddly, but when you see the size of their teeth and just how big they are, cuddles are definitely out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to precious Knut, I have become an avid bear fan. Current research is finding them to be as intelligent as the great apes and emotionally complex. Handlers claim once taught something, they never forget. I adore bears and support many bear protection groups including Polar Bears International, NA Bear Center, Animals Asia bear rescue, Vital Ground, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, who rehabbed darling L'il Smokey, SanDiego Zoo Giant Panda breeding program, and many more to help save these majestic and magnificent darlings from extinction. I have no business sense nor ambition so I have donated my art for fundraising for bear and environmental protection on WEBSHOTS (karenvstefanini). I love bears so much. Thanks for sharing your wonderful article on your viewing of the spectacular polar bear.
Submitted respectfully and with much love by: Karen V. Stefanini, Beautiful Back Bay, Boston

St Jude said...

Karen - I'm glad you liked the post.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Wow. Utter respect: beautiful pictures.

DUTA said...

You're a great narrator, St.Jude.

The photos of the polar bear: sleeping,watchingthe "paparrazi", and running away are priceless.

Clyde said...

What a magnificent beast---and your bear is not bad either
The experience of a life time

St Jude said...

Kevin - Thank you so much.

Duta - Thank you I like to take people with me on my journeys I'm glad you like the narrative.

Clyde - LOL, yes the bear is magnificent.

Mouse said...

Lovely pictures!
I am so envious
Have you ever been on a husky safari?

Mouse said...

PS. I drifted in on the tide from English Rider, drawn by the Latin names of the seaweed

Marius said...

Oh my. That is absolutely amazing! What a true adventure. :-)

Chris Pittock said...

I'm very impressed with the story and photos. What an amazing life experience. I'm quite jealous and well done to you.

 
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