(written on 16th August)
We were in the ice by about three this morning, but it was foggy, and no-one was making a fuss, so I stayed in bed for a couple of hours more. Got up a bit after five, and there was quite a bit of ice, and good visibility. Rugged up and put the long lens on and went out to spot for bears.
After a couple of hours of steaming through ice without seeing a bear, breakfast time was coming on, and I was just about to go below when I noticed some excited gesticulation from the bridge and off in the direction they were looking I could see a dark blob. Closer inspection with binoculars and long lens resolved the blob a bit into a large seal-shape, sleeping. Too far for a good picture. So I went below for breakfast.
I had just finished my second bowl of porridge, and was working on a coffee when Martin the tour manager came below looking pleased as punch and told us that there were a couple of bears outside and that we should get out there and take photos.
And that’s the story of the several hours to lunch. Not just the two bears that we saw first, but two more behind a small hill, hoeing into a fresh kill.
By lunch time they had more or less wandered away, the mist had come down again. Time to review the 1200+ photos and a couple of videos. On first look there seem to be some keepers…
The professional opinion was that it was a mother and three two-year-old cubs. Litters of three are apparently incredibly rare. Finding a family on a fresh kill is incredibly rare. I’d call this morning a solid win.
Post-lunch kip was ended when the boat started to move again: they were trying to come closer to them again. Ended up coming right back to the feeding area, and that seemed to make one of them interested to come back and check us out. It came right up to the boat. I was photographing from fairly low, and it was close enough to feel fear. Then it wandered around to the other side, and got some even closer shots: head filling frame situation. Then he sat down to floss his teeth on the seal skin. That stopped being interesting fairly quickly, so we went down stairs for dinner.
Dinner finished abruptly with the news that he was moving again. Took some more shots as he wandered away, back to the rest of the family.
The boat is moving again now. Plan is to lie quietly at sea tonight, have another look tomorrow morning, before making a break for land again, to dodge some 30kt weather that’s supposed to be coming in.
Location: 82.5 degrees North, or there-abouts. That’s 450 nautical miles from the pole.