After 30 hours of staring into the mist, she emerged without a sound. Her steps were more confident now, but she still took a slow, wandering and cautious course toward the boat.
The ice around us continues to melt though the temperature hovers near freezing. She now wades through pools, leaps over narrow leads and once punches through the rotting ice and has to swim through the frigid sea.
We now have a sense of her routine, though I gathered half a dozen noise grenades and loaded three rounds in the 30-06 rifle.
Just in case.
She sniffed her way around the boat's waterline, tasting and rejecting bits of washed up trash.
We scrambled around on deck, photographing her reflections in the icy pools. Bearded seals pop their heads up nervously in the open water and she scurries off to hunt for real food. Settling in along an open lead, she curls herself into a ball and waits.
We watched and waited, praying to see a true hunt. I could already see it in my mind's eye. The hapless seal surfacing, a powerful lunge, the brief struggle and then blood on the ice.
Of course, precisely none of this happened. Heinrich returned with the zodiac from an excursion and motored into a nearby open lead. The bear stared, looked faintly put out, and returned to sniffling around the boat some more.
Curious about all the frantic to and fro on deck, she reared up and placed her paws up on the bowsprit, staring back at us. She didn't seem all that impressed, since after that she simply walked away, ambling across the broken ice as if down a city sidewalk before vanishing again into the swirling fog.
August 9, 2009 - Sabine Bay, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard