Happy Holidays everyone!
It seems appropriate that having spent 5 days amongst the polar bears that I would have not 1 or 2 blog posts from that fabulous adventure … but 5! I mean, there was just so much to experience there, so many new friends (both polar bears and human), and my goodness, so many photographs to share. If you haven’t seen the previous posts, take a few moments (OK, it may actually take a few moments longer) to get yourself caught up. I’ll include the links at the end of this post … #5 of 5.
I had always dreamed of seeing real live polar bears when I was very young. Over time of course, I was fortunate enough to see them in zoos, but that wasn’t enough for me. Little did I know then, that decades later, I would become addicted to BEARS … all kinds. Maybe it was already in my DNA, who knows. LOL.
I, as in solo, flew off to Alaska in late September of 2015 … just 2 weeks after returning home from there from an adventure out there with Tom. It was crazy and I was feeling a bit crazier. How could I do that without Tom? My trusted adventure partner and personal sherpa … OK, any that knows me knows that I’m not joking. However, I did, and I never looked back, then or now, and have the time of my life. Five days in Kaktovik, Alaska … 8 trips out in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, photographing polar bears, from a relatively small boat. They were everything that I hoped … and more! We observed lone polar bears as they roamed the arctic landscape. We also were treated to sows with their young cubs. I found it fascinating when they would encounter other bears. In this instance, I believe that the bear in the water was familiar with the sow …perhaps an older offspring from the past. The cub was quite interested in playing with it, but mom would always place herself in between the cub and other bear. A few times the encounter seemed like it was becoming a bit tense. I was so engaged in the interaction, but make no mistake about it, I didn’t want to see any fights. Yes, I’m that one. Haha. Mom and the bear would wrestle around in the water, while the young cub obediently waited on the shore. They reminded me of dogs playing in the surf or anywhere else for that matter. There was a lot of snarling, teeth flossing, claws bared …… but like most brawls, there wasn’t much else but playful fighting … or perhaps a play for dominance and lesson teaching.
All the while, the cub observed from afar and would call out to its mom. Of course, she ignored its calls. Eventually, she would exit the water and join her cub. Before long though, the other bear would come close to shore and off the cub would go to play or defend its mom, we really couldn’t tell. Once again, mom would escort the bear back into the water.When it was safe to proceed, she began to travel the landscape again, with her cub along her side. Seems like the cub wanted to still interact with the other bear though.Just as any good mom would do, she them gave the cub a little nibble in the backside to teach it a lesson. LOL
These bears would find just about anything they could to play with, eat, or entertain themselves. While we were positioned in an open boat, the bears would share the waters with us. Though they are excellent swimmers, we were quite safe and always kept a respectable distance. I just loved how entertaining they were and how many positions that they could get themselves in. Look at the size of those pads! Whale blubber made an excellent toy to play with … the nastier, the better.
As always, I became obsessed by the size of their feet and the beauty of their pads. As opposed to brown bears, these bears had more distinct pads … better for photography even. The real beauty of them though was their movement on the land. So determined in their walk. Again, the interactions with other bears that they encountered seemed to be calm and even at times playful. When I was told that we had to get back to shore on our last trip, I felt that old familar feeling that I can only describe as only ….. NOOOOOO! …. followed by incessant shutter clicking. As if the thousands I had already taken weren’t enough. 😦 Once we waited for our van to take us from the shore to the inn for the last time, I saw something that was so incredibly appropriate. A rainbow positioned just perfectly behind a whale bone on the snowy landscape. It was a sign … our trip was over … but to me also was a sign to me that I would return one day. 🙂 Even our departure was exciting. Though I had secretly (OK, maybe not so secretly) hoped that our flight would be unable to make it in to pick us up, there it was taxiing down the runway, which double as the road, to pick us up. Dang! As were were loading up for our return flight to Fairbanks, I still didn’t want to leave. But ultimately we had to … the 4 of us and 4 more Canadian photographers shared a pleasant flight back to the big city. See, it’s all relative in Alaska. Yes, it was a fabulous trip to the arctic … the literal end of the land … for these amazing polar bears. Our group was fantastic and I still keep in touch with each of them, as well as several of my new friends from Canada. Amazing how photography bonds people and makes the world a much smaller place. It is my hope that my photographs and stories shared in this and the other 4 blog posts from this amazing adventure serve to keep others informed about the polar bears and their fight for survival. It’s up to us to insure that our children, grandchildren, and for many more generations have the opportunity to know the joys of polar bears … yes, up close and personal like I did. 🙂As promised, here are the links for the other blog posts shared:
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