Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Half Moon Island, Svalbard, Norway

It was well past midnight, but at 79° north, the sun only skims the horizon. Sailing under gloomy skies toward the old trapping station on Half Moon Island, Heinrich and I spotted something in the water. He slowed the boat and a young polar bear swam towards us for a closer look.

The bear was clearly curious, and not much put off by the ruckus set off as we scrambled for position. I dropped down into the Zodiac, watching as he swam closer. And closer. And closer. His face filled the viewfinder, and I started getting nervous. At ten feet, I slowly sat up and murmured something like, “nice bear....good bear...easy bear...”

That was as close as he came, at least to me. He dog-paddled over to a nearby iceberg, scrambled up to a perch where he could inspect the boat at his leisure.

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