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The Bear who liked to swim

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

She popped up again, her fur dripping wet, gave a weak shake of her head, spraying a much lighter shower of water around her and then immediately dove again.

This was strange. Extremely so.

She had been in the waters for more than 30 mins and had already dove in at least half a dozen times. There must be something that was driving her to incessantly dive into the waters.

Our first day aboard our ship MS Malmo and the day had begun rather well, even if a little earlier than we are used to. Someone pounding on our door at 2 am informed us that there was a blue whale in sight. We rushed to the deck and keeping our eyes peeled for the water spout as the whale came up. A little while later, there was a ‘whoooshh’ right next to us and we saw the now familiar shape emerge from the water. Its then that you get an idea of how incredibly large this mammal is. A few minutes later , it silently vanished into the dark depths to its magical world and we trudged back to our warm beds.

Later in the morning, we had gone ashore for the first time in our Zodiacs. There was a walrus colony on one of the beaches and we went to pay them a visit. Nothing really happened. Walruses by nature are known for their lack of action. They are usually fighting, jostling for more space and, they can be smelly since they break wind rather profusely ( and noisily ).

This bunch, however…perfect social behaviour. The only moment of excitement was when one burly character came up real close to inspect us. It can be a little disconcerting to see those beady eyes, at close quarters, intently studying you.

A rather underwhelming visit over, we were headed back to our ship, when Vide, our walking encyclopedia of a guide, softly said...

“ I spy with my little eye, something very white”.

Our first polar bear!

When we first saw her, she was lying on top of the rocks, in that utterly restful pose most polar bears take, head resting on her paws, looking ahead in a placid manner. Bears can stay in that pose for hours, in an attempt to conserve energy but, our lady got up and ambled over the rocks, descending from her rocky abode.

Bears can rest for an eternity. We were lucky that this lady was just waiting for us to appear !

She moved rather purposefully and with such ease and grace over the rocky terrain.

What followed was beyond our wildest dreams.

We hoped she will walk on the ridge of the hill. She did. We hoped she will walk upto the edge of the water. She did. Pose on the rocks ? Of course. Dare we wish for a swim ? Big deal.

A quick pose ? Of course ! This one sure was a photographer's dream !

She would have walked on water if that was our wish !

Deciding on the right spot to enter ?

This is what you wanted to see, right ?

And just in case, any of us had missed out on taking a good image of her shaking off water from her head, she did that again.

An animal. In the water. The shake is inevitable. You just need to be ready.

And again.

Missed the last one ? No's another.

And, yet again.

What was going on ?

We could see harbour seals swimming in the waters around us but we knew that a hunt will not happen. A bear will almost never be able to hunt seals in water. The seals are simply too fast in water and a bear will never try to waste energy behind a futile chase. This was no hunt.

Or maybe it was a hunt of a different kind.

After what seemed like an eternity of dive, shake, rinse, repeat, we could see her swimming towards the shoreline. As she walked out, dripping body and all that, we noticed something – she had something in her mouth.

A half eaten seal.

That explains her desperation.

In all probability, she had made a kill earlier, eaten it partially and then slept off. Either the kill slipped off the rocks or she might have left it on the shore and the tide pulled it in. Whatever the reason, she had got her well deserved meal back.

We left her, high up in the rocks, safe, at a point from where her meal can neither fall down or the tide reach.

She has learnt her lesson. She took her unfinished meal to a totally risk free spot

What had begun as a simple walrus watching trip had digressed into us witnessing a brilliant natural moment in the wild.

Some days…Lady Luck does smile at us !

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1 Comment

You were truly lucky.

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