“They look like sheep.. what do you think Max”, said Dr John aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy looking toward the cliffs and soft slopes of tundra Wrangel Island. “They’re Polar Bears”, said Max incredulously and asked Rodney Russ the Expedition leader of Heritage Expeditions to have a look for himself.
Rodney at first thought they were lumps of ice and Alexander Gruzdev from Wrangle Island State Nature reserve said initially that it couldn’t be Polar Bears because there wouldn’t be that many… but there WERE that many!
Within 15 minutes we quietly embarked into zodiacs to cruise slowly and quietly past this natural phenomenon difficult to adequately articulate.
181 – one hundred and eighty-one Polar Bears on the hillside around the carcass of a dead whale… with approximately 60 others walking towards the round-stoned beach.
Rangers from the island confirmed the presence of 260 bears that day; one mum with quadruplets; and many with triplets. There seemed to be a second mum with quads, but upon careful inspection it can be seen that the mum is endeavouring to herd away the fourth from her own triplets.
This Polar Bear feasting on a whale was an incredulous sight never witnessed before, and we were so privileged to experience it.
Whispers of astonishment; endless clicking of shutters; splashes from the sea; and the deep vocal calls intertwined in the cold arctic wind.
Click on thumbnail above to see the slideshow of the Polar Bears. Photographs Max and Julie Stephenson