Last sum­mer

To see a bear swim to the ex­pe­ri­ence.’ ship was a spe­cial

Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —Maria Cashin Earth sci­en­tist, and guide with One Ocean Ex­pe­di­tions since 2012

I was work­ing as an ex­pe­di­tion leader with One Ocean Ex­pe­di­tions on a trip to Nor­way’s Sval­bard archipelago and saw some­thing you don’t usu­ally see. We were off Nor­daust­landet, which is the sec­ond­largest is­land in Sval­bard, sail­ing along­side a 160-kilo­me­tre­long ice cliff that’s part of the Aust­fonna ice cap, look­ing for po­lar bears. I was out­side on the top deck and had al­ready seen a few — one that was sit­ting on top of the cliff, two more that were on a lit­tle ice­berg be­low it and two more court­ing — when I spot­ted one in the wa­ter swim­ming to­ward us. Nor­mally we see cu­ri­ous bears when we’ve been nosed into the sea ice for hours at a time; even­tu­ally, they ap­proach the ship, whether it’s a mother and a cub or an in­di­vid­ual bear. But this one swam right up to the bow, then ac­tu­ally cir­cled the ves­sel. It was amaz­ing be­cause the wa­ter was so clear that we could see its en­tire body and how it moved, how pow­er­ful it was. A few of us joked that if the gang­way had been down, the bear might have walked up it! You al­ways hope to see po­lar bears on the ice or on land from the Zo­di­acs that we take out on the wa­ter, but to see one swim to the ship and and then all the way around it was a pretty spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence — not just for pas­sen­gers but for staff, too. I like to say that I have the best of­fice in the world, and shar­ing it with guests so that they can wit­ness some­thing like that is a great part of my job.

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