(note: you can see full-size images, by clicking the thumbnails below)
Once again, the best stuff seems to happen when most people have gone to sleep. Last night a group of us gathered in the dining room for some late-night story telling and creative inspiration (aka whisky). We sat with Rupert Pilkington, another bear researcher at the Center, and he told us some bear stories and personal adventures.
After 4 hours sleep, we woke up at 5:30 this morning to go on an early morning bear watch with Chuck. We were looking for polar bear tracks so which would help determine our afternoon bear-watching route with the larger group (only 8 of us went out this morning). We did see some tracks, but they were quickly buried by the falling snow. Chuck speculated that we may not see many bears today, with the possibility of a white out. Before we headed back to the Center for breakfast we saw 2 Arctic foxes (cute white fox that always look happy) running across the snow.
Thankfully, the weather cleared up and we saw bears today. This was our first “official” bear outing and it was amazing. As long as I’ve dreamed of this trip (literally) I never could have imagined the feeling that overcame me when I saw the first bears. They are absolutely phenomenal. They’re playful, smart, curious, and strong. It’s still hard to believe we shared the ice with them today. We watched a mom and cub traverse across the tundra for a while and then jumped back in our bus and headed in the direction they were heading.
When we arrived at our second stop, we immediately saw 2 bears resting under trees. One of them looked at right at me. Another got up, checked us out, turned around, and went back to his nap. Then, at a distance, we saw the original 2 bears heading our way. We now had our eyes on 4 bears – 2 napping and 2 moving swiftly in our direction.
The other thing I should mention is that there are a bunch of sled dogs tied up in the area. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the photo of the polar bear playing with a dog that circulated a while back, but I witnessed it today! Initially the dogs howled when they saw the bears. The larger bear (Chuck thinks it was the mom) literally pounced on and pinned one of the dogs to the ground. And then, she let him up – unharmed. They chased each other in circles, stood side-by-side, and played for about 10 minutes. If they wanted to, the bears could have easily killed the dogs. But after they were finished playing, the bears continued on their way.
More tomorrow… there are some people waiting for me in the dining hall 😉
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