Stalking Bears

Today, Friday, July 3rd has been a top day. Te weather has become fine and even though it is still cold, we have had sunshine to brighten up the scenery, some scattered clouds to make the sky interesting and some animals that have made the day exciting.

We are back in Woodfjorden, the same place where we saw bears in the snow a few days ago. With the mountains clear from cloud and glass smooth water on the sea, we have been provided with some splendid landscape vistas. Cameras have been in overdrive in attempts to record the splendour of it all.

This morning, we were cruising to a glacier at the head of the fjord when a polar bear was spotted on a large ice sheet some two kilometres away. The Captain diverted the ship over to the left and we quietly snuck up on it. It was clear from a distance that it was stalking prey (seals). It was hunched over a hole in the ice, staying as still as a statue with its gaze fixed on the spot. We were able to get within 300 metres of it and took some reasonable photos.

We must have disturbed it as moved across the ice to our right and further away. At one stage, it rolled over on its back, presumably to dry its fur.

We followed it along the ice in the ship, just edging slowly around the ice flow as the bear moved. Everyone was on the deck and the bridge taking in the view and then the action started! At one stage, the bear stopped and paused to look at a seal in a hole in the ice. Then it clearly started stalking it. There was some danger that we would sail past and miss whatever happened next and with plaintiff cries to the leaders for the ship to stop, We came to a rest once clear of some ice and watched fascinated as the bear continued to stalk the seal. It was behaving just like a cat stalking a bird. Its eyes were focused on its prey, it was standing completely still in a crouched position and trying to make itself look as small as it could. It inched closer to the seal and all of a sudden the bear surged forward in a lumbering gallop. It covered 30 metres in just a few seconds as it surged towards the seal and then plunged in a full frontal dive, with an enormous splash, right on top of the seal and grabbed it in its jaws.


No one had ever seen a polar bear take a seal before. There was absolutely no sympathy for the seal as the bear clambered out of the water and back onto the ice to drag its kill a hundred metres away and start to eat it. What a thrill to see a bear hunt and kill in such a spectacular way.

Soon someone had sighted another bear, so again we gave away our intention of getting to the glacier and diverted to watch it. Again, it was on another large ice pan and walking from our left to our right. It was taking a lot of interest in a walrus that was lying on the ice. We think that the walrus might have had a baby as it looked like the bear was stalking the walrus. This was actually a dumb thing for it to do as the walrus is four times as big as the bear. The bear circled the walrus and at one time it seemed to leap towards the walrus just as a cat jumps as it plays with its food. Finally, it gave up and wandered across to the edge of the ice on the other side of the ice-pan.

We nosed the ship around the ice pan and found the bear hunkered down in the snow against a little hillock. It had dug out a hollow and was sleeping with its back to us. We nosed right in so that the bow of the ship was only fifty metres away. Occasionally the bear would turn its head, cameras would click madly and the bear would go back to sleep again. Every time it turned slightly, the photographers would go crazy. Because it was on the very edge of the ice, we were able to take photos with good reflections of the bear in the water.

A little further along was a harp seal and a few of us who delayed going inside for lunch took a few shots before it took fright and slid off the ice and into the water. It was very hard to drag ourselves away from all this excitement to go inside for lunch.


After lunch, we were due to make a shore landing but there were was another bear in the area and we had to move our location. In the end we landed at another spot , managing to see a few Eider Ducks and two Red Throated Divers, before we had to evacuate the site because a bear was approaching.


We finished off the day with a zodiac cruise along the coastline of the fjord. It was a beautiful time in sea ice of all shapes, the sunlit mountains in the background and arctic terns diving for food all around us. Now we are all back on the ship comparing photos of the day before dinner time.



Bruce is a keen traveller and photographer. This web site describes his travel and family interests

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