Were the polar bears bigger than in other parts of the high arctic? I can only say they were much more curious! Huge bears often came right to the ship to inspect our approach...
After determining that we weren't going to make a good meal, the bears became totally at ease with our presence and we got the pleasure of watching some very fun bear behaviour!
I had to often wonder just who is more interested in whom here on the ice. We are perhaps some of the only humans this bear has encountered in its high Arctic home.
What better way to cool off and clean your fur than a nice roll in fresh snow! Of course a little back scratching can reach that hard-to-get itch as well!
There are only 5 countries in the world (Russia, Denmark (Iceland), Norway, Canada, and the United States) that are home to polar bears. All 5 strictly protect and preserve polar bears, but their numbers are dropping in some populations as the Earth's climate is changing. Let's hope that polar bears and other Arctic wildlife will be around for decades to come. The choice really is ours to make!
The bird life
here in Franz Josef Land is not so diverse, but very abundant. Here two black-legged kittiwakes are in aerial combat against each other near Alexander Island.
Our Russian ornithologist Maria went absolutely crazy over our newly discovered ivory gull breeding colony on Alexander Island.
Near the ivory gull breeding site we also found black guillemots working to secure nesting sites in the cliffs of Alexander Island.
Rock on Hooker Island Adult dovekies
make their nests amongst the scree slopes.
Curious walrus inspecting the Zodiac near Apollo Island. Adult males and females protect young calves amongst the ice floes.
Their curiosity at the sight of our Zodiacs led to a game of "I dare you to get closer", much to the delight of all the photographers on board.
The National Geographic Explorer reached an all-time furthest north of 81 degrees 48 minutes, just slightly less than 500 nautical miles from the North Pole! What a privilege to come here to the high Russian Arctic to see and photograph such wild and wonderful animals. Thanks Sven, for the trip of a lifetime!