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