Isbjorn is the Norwegian word for…

Polar Bear!

I saw a polar bear for the first time on the ice at Raudfjorden 79°49,2′ N, 012°03,4′ E.

My camera is not very zoomy so I don’t have a very good picture to show you but it was amazing to watch this bear and two others.

there is a bear.jpg

At the beginning it was difficult to spot the bears – and they were very far away – but once you get your eye in you can see them quite easily, they appear to be buttercup yellow against the bluey white glare of the snow. Polar bears have black skin to absorb heat and their hairs are hollow with space for air inside, which creates a warm insulating layer around their body. Two of the bears we saw were sleeping, they can sleep for up to a week after a good lunch of seal. This is very annoying if you have come all the way to Svalbard to look at them!

old bear.jpg

This Polar Bear was old and not looking his best. He was very thin and a bit hunched over, our guides said that they thought he was at the end of his days. It was very sad to see such a huge and iconic animal looking so weak.

bear sitting down.jpg

Sailing on further west we passed by two more polar bears before arriving at Blomstrandbreen. The mountains here are red because of all the iron in the rock, I think they look so beautiful against the blue glacier.

red blue and strata.JPG

In this picture you can see all the layers of rock in the mountain, this is called stratification and it is the reason geologists love to work in Svalbard. There is no vegetation to hide the rock face and you can read the lines of time like rings on a tree.

Whilst I was taking hundreds of interesting photographs of the mountain, someone shouted ‘Seal!’ And we all ran over to the side of the ship.

spotting bearded seal

There was a bearded seal on the ice. He looked very relaxed and just stared at us with his big eyes. I was amazed to find out that bearded seals have red heads because they rootle around on the bottom of the fjord to find the shellfish they love to eat.

On the bottom of the sea is all the red, iron rich sediment which has washed down from the red mountains, the colour sticks to their fur and that is why they look red – if you gave one a soapy scrub he’d come up brown.

red head.JPG

Bearded Seals get their name on account of their magnificent whiskers which are used to feel about to find shellfish. When the seal is out of the water the whiskers dry out and go curly, this seal had icicles on his whiskers.

In the evening we dangled a waterproof microphone over the edge of the ship. We could hear the ice crackling and popping and then we heard the most extraordinary sound like an electronic organ playing scales underwater, the scales started very high and then went lower and lower over a couple of minutes. It was bearded seals singing to one another.

And then we heard a whale singing.

It could have been miles and miles away as sound carries over great distances through water but it was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard and I wished that I could see a whale one day.

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