Exit, pursued by bear
LAURA LEVY, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER IN GEOSCIENCE, AARHUS UNIVERSITY, DENMARK
The Greenland ice sheet is shrinking faster than anticipated. But it’s not like it’s never changed before. I study how the sheet responded to previous climate shifts so I can compare that growth and shrinkage with what we see today. That means giving up my warm Danish springs to travel to Greenland.
When my team travels to the far north to take sediment core samples from lakes, it’s so cold that our instant meals sometimes freeze solid in minutes. Climate change is shortening that cold season, which means less sea ice. Because polar bears use sea ice to hunt prey, warm temperatures leave them hungry—and dangerous.
About three years ago, as we worked from a sailboat in the fjords, one of those hungry bears swam up and swiped a barrel of emergency supplies from a raft tied to our ship. He ate the chocolate bars inside and immediately swam back for more.
At first seeing a polar bear up close was exciting. But we realized that if he really wanted to get onboard, he could. That was less exciting. We lit flares and scared him off. But he came back a few hours later—so we lit more flares. The next day he was sitting on shore watching us, like a dog looking for scraps. That’s when we decided to move. You don’t want to be a bear’s favorite lunch spot.