I work for Quark Expeditions in Svalbard and have had many amazing wildlife encounters in the inspirational landscapes of the High Arctic. Svalbard’s geography and special protection makes it one of the most magnificent polar ecosystems in the world.
It was late August, the last trip of the season aboard the Shokalskiy. We only had a few days remaining before heading to Greenland, and the chances of seeing wildlife fell as we headed east. But the bears had made their way onto land, hungry and anticipating the return of winter.
We awoke at 5 am. The plan was to search for bears, risking our entire day of shore landings. We split into watches but for 18 hours we saw nothing. Then came the frantic call from the top deck: we have a bear, two nautical miles to the north!
We crept closer, to see it perched on a small ice flow. The scene came into focus: not just one bear but two – and a sight rarely seen in the wild. The bigger had just attacked and killed one of its own. We watched from a distance, the bear licking the fat from the inner thighs.
With a sense of indignity in the air we uneasily snapped away, but the bear was merely securing its survival in this harsh landscape.