Local time: 2016-09-15 17:04
Position: 82° 47.23’N 018° 50.53’E
Speed: 6 knots
Water depth: 4238 m
Wind speed: 7.4 m/s
Air temperature: -8.67°C
Feels like (wind chill): -16.87°C
Sea temperature: -1.8°C
It finally happened – we saw a polar bear!
There has only been one polar bear spotting earlier on the trip. However, almost no one saw it, as it happened very early in the morning. Therefore, everyone has been anxious/depressed/annoyed/frustrated that no polar bears have appeared after 39 days on the Arctic Ocean.
We have spent most of the cruise on high latitudes, and normally polar bears are rare to spot north of 82°N due to scarcity of food. We knew the last days when heading south that we are entering polar bear territory, so the hopes were up. Otherwise, we would be headed towards mutiny on the ship and (more) complaints from the scientists.
But just before lunch today, a bear appeared. Our COBS phones (internal phones that everyone has) started ringing frenetically, according to who have made arrangements with who to call if there a polar bear is spotted. Polar bears are not announced on speaker on the ship. The speaker announcements sound in all cabins, and due to people’s work rotations, someone is always sleeping at any time on the ship.
Anyways, the bear was gently walking over the ice, parallel with our heading. She (I decided it was a she) was curious, and kept looking at us and sniffing her snout in the air. I am sure we smelled like a huge piece of meat with all the people on deck. However, she was probably intimidated by our size, and kept her distance. Unfortunately, we were sailing, so she could not come up to us to investigate closer (as has happened before on cruises).
I had thought a polar bear would be easy to spot, as they are quite yellow against the white snow. However, if your eyes lost track of her, you had to ask someone where she was to find her again.
Now, everyone’s morals are boosted, and we are ready to see more bears. Actually, there are a lot of tracks on the ice around here! As mentioned, we are headed south and are scheduled to arrive in Longyearbyen next Monday, 19 September. This means we will probably be in the ice until Sunday, so there are still a few days to spot some more bears!