There is no sea ice this summer in this part of the Arctic. Icebergs float south in the currents of Davis Strait. Some ground on shoals, others are caught by the currents of Hudson Strait and head west. Others continue to southern latitudes. This time last year this region was choked with ice that held fast to the coast of Baffin Island. Walrus rested on undulating ice floes. Gulls waited patiently for a polar bear to finish eating a seal so they could claim the remains.
This year the bears are on land because there is no ice, a situation they are increasingly facing as the summer temperatures continue to warm. We saw seven of these magnificent animals on Monumental Island, which was named in honour of Sir John Franklin whose lost expedition was the inspiration for decades of fruitless searching and much exploring. Two were females with one and a pair of cubs respectively. It’s unusual to see two youngsters and we met this family at a distance when they climbed out of the metre-high swells onto the steep rocky shore. They weren’t very concerned by the appearance of four black zodiacs and ambled up the side of the island at a leisurely pace, looking out at us without fear. Polar bears fear nothing. That’s why we stayed in the zodiacs. All except for Alex, our videographer, who was put ashore for a brief time to get some good footage. There was much joking about it being okay to lose a cameraperson to the bears since we have two on the voyage.
See today's Students on Ice video here:
Credit: Students on Ice