Today was another beautiful, wildlife-speckled day at sea on National Geographic Endurance. The crew held us out of the ice until daybreak when guests were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to gather on the decks to look for signs of life. The ice was noticeably different from previous days, dirtied from brushing against the seabed and riverbed as it formed. This made polar bear spotting particularly difficult. We scrutinized “several ice bears” from a distance before we were quite close; with no movement, we confirmed that they were, indeed, not living organisms.
The schedule was full, and naturalist Jennifer Kingsley was the only speaker who didn’t have her presentation interrupted by other activities. She gave a presentation of stories from her time in the Arctic: “Meet the North: Life in The Arctic, One Introduction at a Time.” Just as Jenny wrapped up her tales, the first call came from the Bridge to alert guests that a polar bear was spotted on a nearby ice floe. The crew skillfully navigated us nearby without disturbing the bear. Guests enjoyed capturing images of this majestic animal from the bow for about an hour. Spectacled eiders, glaucous gulls, and kittiwakes were among the avian fauna who also graced us with their fleeting presence.
We managed to spot a small pod of about five belugas as we continued through the ice. Then we encountered another lone polar bear, not too distant from the bow. As the Captain navigated closer, we could make out that the bear was feasting on a kill, accompanied by scavenging birds that picked at pieces as opportunity allowed. This bear was not at all disturbed by the ship slowly approaching, and we were treated to sights of the bear feeding on what was presumably a seal caught earlier in the day. The bear was a particularly messy eater, with food strewn over the ice.
To end the day, we were treated to a Zodiac tour in open water about twenty nautical miles from the coastline of Alaska. We have been spending plenty of time on wildlife spotting from the decks, so it was nice to be at eye level with the water and ice. Guests enjoyed capturing images of Zodiacs, the ship, and icebergs in various formations. What a great day!