In the early morning, National Geographic Endurance stopped at the edge of a 25-mile-long sheet of multiyear pack ice, close to the western entrance of the Amundsen Gulf. At 6:00 a.m., expedition leader Brent announced that a resting female bear and a cub had just been spotted in the far distance. Shortly after, a third bear showed up behind the two. It was hard to find time for breakfast, as even more bears popped up. A single female bear was rather inquisitive and came quite close to the ship. She treated us to a couple delightful rolls on the snow. At least seven different bears were spotted on the seemingly endless icescape. One of the bears looked darker than the others and could have been a hybrid of grizzly bear and polar bear (“prizzly bear”). The gorgeous morning light added a special touch to our incredible wildlife encounter. During the morning, geologist Joe Holliday gave a presentation on the oceanography of the Arctic Ocean. He focused on the dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic, which is happening at an alarming rate – four times faster than in Antarctica.
In the afternoon, the expedition team staged a game of Arctic Pictionary to provide some fun. We saw proof of several very gifted guests as they sketched quirky drawings of the words for the audience to guess. It was a great success!
Shortly after the fun game, two more bears – a female and a cub-of-the-year – were spotted on a large sheet of ice in the distance. We headed back to the bridge and out on deck for another wildlife adventure. And what a smashing show we got to see! After staying far away for a good hour, the female decided to come closer, and closer, and closer. Wow! What an experience for us to witness these beautiful creatures! They walked, stopped, and jumped on the ice. Their activities were mirrored in a number of blue-green pools of water. We could hardly believe what we were seeing!
A presentation scheduled for the late afternoon was wisely put on hold because we all needed to relax after the marvelous bear show we were so fortunate to see. Expedition leader Brent instead encouraged everybody to celebrate and let it all sink in.