Location: Lower Savage Islands, Nunavut, northern Canada
If it weren't for the swirling eddies created by the raging currents, the otherwise placid waters and breathless air of the Lower Savage Islands, it would have been like boating on a dam.
We're motoring in a small convoy of Zodiacs among the labyrinth of waterways through these flat glaciated islands of solid rock. The texture and pattern of the stone varies enormously with patches of green lichen and smears of muddy run-off interspersed with glowing golden hues and the corroded bronze scuffs of surface copper. A harbour seal bobs up here and there and frantic gulls try and shoo away a marauding raven. We chat and watch.
“White dot ahead, two o'clock,” says expedition leader Boris, busting the silence over the two-way, its volume slightly overcompensated for the outboard.
Now we have a real purpose and before l ong we're calling out excitedly as a tiny furry head is seen propelled across the water by half a tonne of polar bear beneath the water. From a distance of about 150m we watch the massive beast haul himself out of the water and shake off a spray of frigid water.
“We could move in few metres,” says our resident bear expert, Nick, “he seems reasonably relaxed.”
So the encircled Zodiacs creep forward while cameras on rapid fire clatter. Massive lens are trained forward as if to deliver a salvo as the young male bear casually ambles up the slope and eventually across the brow of the hill, stopping occasionally, head aloft, to catch the medley of strange aromas that must be reaching him by now.
As he disappears from view our mini armada proceeds around the bluff and before long we've caught sight of him again. But wait, what's that? A mother and two first year cubs are high-tailing up the rocky cliff on the other side, putting as much distance as they can between themselves and the dangerous stranger.
The decision is made to linger with the male, sitting unperturbed on a moist ledge by the water. The strategy being to allow the mother and cubs to make a getaway while we photograph the magnificent specimen.
For the next hour we just hang with the brute while he does likewise, sniffing around the outcrops and having a bit of a dig at something interesting on top. The sun catches his fur from behind, creating a hairy halo around his whole body. The photographers are delighted. Needless to say we are late for dinner.
- Young male polar bear against the sun (R Eime)
- Bear stops to catch a scent (R Eime)
- All lenses trained on the animal (R Eime)
- Zodiac convoy amid the rocks of the Lower Savage Islands (R Eime)
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