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What are the odds ?

What are the odds of seeing a polar bear ?

 

It’s not easy to sight a polar bear. In fact, its darn difficult.

 

Let me explain.

 

There are an estimated 3000 of them in Svalbard. 3000 may not seem like a small number. However, these 3000 bears are spread across 2 Mn square kilometres of land and sea ( They are  marine mammals, powerful swimmers and hence crossing water isn’t a barrier. )

 

That is a lot of area. Finding a polar bear is like the proverbial needle…the one in that famous haystack.


We got really good photo opportunities with 10 polar bears !

 

What are the odds of seeing a polar bear on your first day ?

 

You are on a ship, cruising down the fjords. The landscape is immense in its scale. So vast that even an animal as massive as the polar bear is often seen as a small dot from the ship. It’s also a debatable dot. Often, this small dot might just be a rock or some dirt on snow or ice and not a bear.


We saw one.

 

What are the odds of seeing a polar bear on your first Zodiac* trip in both your visits ?

 

Polar bears are not territorial. They move across large distances, moving with surprising agility and pace over land and swimming with speed and ease in the icy cold waters. You cannot go to a specific point knowing that this is the place that a particular bear will be found. They can be…anywhere.

 

What can I say…we ticked that box too.

 

What are the odds of seeing a polar bear in the same spot in both your visits ?

 

Yeah…clearly belongs in a Believe it or Not category, but…this is exactly what happened !

 

I had written about the Bear who liked to swim two years back. ( Here - https://www.ashoknair.in/post/the-bear-who-liked-to-swim ) That day, we had visited a walrus colony when we spied a polar bear which proceeded to keep us enthralled in the mystery of its actions for the next hour or so.

 

This year too, the idea was to visit the same walrus colony. We didn’t see too many walruses around. Not a single one. Actually, we didn’t go looking for them. We didn’t go looking for them since something else caught our attention.

 

Within the first few minutes of the Zodiac zooming off, we found a massive male bear snoozing on the snow.

 

Just like that. Wow.

 

In almost the same spot ( well, not exactly, I am getting a bit carried away… but you know what I mean…)

 

There was a walrus carcass nearby which was keeping our friend rather occupied. It’s days seemed to be comfortably divided between eating voraciously and then swimming to the other side of the land and resting.

 

Unlike last time, there was no story this year. There was nothing mysterious about its behavior. There were no fancy questions that popped up in our heads.

 

It was just a bear lying on snow.

 

Just. A. Bear.

 

A sleeping bear, as is to be expected, is a boring subject. But this one was different. . It would stretch languidly just like we do after a snooze post a sinful lunch. It would roll around in snow just for fun. It will get up and stretch and then plop back again.

 

It really was rather cute. We would often break out into chuckles while clicking madly.

 

A trip could not have started in a better manner. The weather was lovely. The sun occasionally popped out every now and then to smile at us benignly. The Zodiac bobbed about contentedly in a sea that seemed at peace with the world.

 

And, once again, I wondered…what are the odds ?

 

What are the odds of one going to Svalbard, being 900 odd kms from the North Pole ?


What are the odds of one making this trip twice ?

 

There are times that one feels truly blessed. This morning was one of them.

 

*Zodiacs are inflatable rafts we get onto. They are deployed using cranes and we use them to get a little closer to the polar bears once we sight them on land

I spy a not so little brownish spot in the snow...

Sttrrrretchhhhhh !

Can I be another rock ?

Maybe I should get up

Why am I unable to open my eyes ?

Sniff. Sniff. Anything interesting...suspicious...threatening ?

No.

 

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Ashok, your are truly lucky and blessed. Lovely set of images.

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Oh yes...totally agree, and thank you so much !!

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