Daily Travel Tips
Weekly Column
Eileens Blog
Travel Diary
In the Media

Featured Savings


Daily Tips

Become Colonial For A Day

Jul 29, 2014
Historic Philadelphia offers a variety of events during their summer months. Colonial For A Day allows kids to dress the part of their historic Philadelphia adventure with costume rentals.

Eileen's Favorites


Calendar of Events

Get out there and have some fun! See family friendly events happening all over the nation in our Calendar of Events.


Passports with Purpose


Searching for polar bears in the water and ice


Explorer approaching iceberg

DAY 4 — Polar Bear! 

   

 It is 5:30 a.m. and like many of the passengers aboard the Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Explorer, 9-year-old Evie Plunkett jumps out of bed and into more layers of clothes than she’s ever worn. 

   

This was no onboard emergency, but something just as significant to the Lindblad Expeditions guests exploring these Arctic waters… a polar bear just 90 feet from the ship.  On board this ship in the Arctic—we’re less than 1,000 miles from the North Pole—a  polar bear sighting is reason to jump out of bed, bolt from lunch or get off the treadmill. 

   

“I got a picture of him with his tongue out,” said Evie proudly. She’s here with her grandparents, and was using a camera loaned by her grandfather, William, an accomplished photographer. 

   

What a Fourth of July celebration! We had burgers, fries and potato salad for lunch, and sausages and beer served on the ship’s back sundeck later in the afternoon. We learned about Svalbard geology and ice forms from onboard geologist Jason Kelly. We listened to National Geographic Photographer Chris Rainier describe his work for the Society.  

   

But what we really “feasted” on during this day devoted to exploring in the pack ice were the five polar bears we saw – swimming, eating a seal, and lolling on an ice floe on a spectacularly beautiful sunny day in the Storfjorden Region, the body of water separating Spitsbergen in the west from Barentsoya and Edjoya to the east. 

   

 “Very cool,” said Evie, the youngest on board.  Our last polar bear of the day enjoyed dinner his seal dinner as we watched, oblivious to the audience. Birds swooped in for the leftovers.  

   

No one minded getting up so early to shiver in the cold. In fact, getting this close to a Polar Bear was exactly why many of the passengers had spent so many thousands of dollars and traveled so any thousands of miles—and they wanted to go home with the photos to prove it.  

   

Some of Evie’s terrific photos accompanied the daily Lindblad Expedition report which I was invited to write.  She was helped by onboard Photo Instructor CT Ticknor. “Everyone sees something different,” Ticknor told Evie.  “That is the magic.” 

   

And that is the magic of this weeklong Expedition to the Land of the Ice Bears  because each of us—and we range from age nine to 86— is experiencing this pristine wilderness in his or her own way, whether on deck with a long camera lens, in the open bridge with binoculars, sitting in the sunshine on the deck, or chatting with the staff and crew. 

   

“It takes a lot of waiting and a lot of patience,” Evie acknowledged. The bears don’t pop out on cue. They may dive into the water behind an iceberg just when we’ve got our cameras ready. They may appear when we’re in the shower.  

   

But that unpredictability adds to the adventure.  On this morning, we are roughly 925 miles from the North Pole, our affable captain Oliver Kruess tells me on the Bridge. The ship has an open bridge policy so on this morning, as we are heading through the ice looking for polar bears, many guests are scanning the horizon right from the bridge.  

   

 Explorer skipper 
Explorer captain Oliver Kruess

  He jokes that when the ship collides with a hard iceberg (we learn the bluer it is and the higher, the harder the ice) it is like two masses, thus the shudder. “Like a husband and wife,” jokes Iro Sotiriadou, traveling with her 22 year old granddaughter Melissa Hadjikyriakou from Cyprus. The trip is her college graduation present. “This is lovely to share it with her while I can,” the proud grandma says. 

   

While some of the crew and naturalists scan the horizon—all we see is blue sky and floating ice of all different sizes and shapes—the captain explains that as much as 30 feet of the ice bergs are below water…  This ship, of course, is built especially to handle ice.  “Potentially any floe can have bears,” he says.  

   

We look down and see giant footprints on one ice floe.  A polar bear, of course, is huge. Males can weigh 1,100 pounds, females 500. We are looking for seals too because seals are the bears’ main source of food—Ringed Seals, their most favorite (they might eat 45 a year of the five foot seals that can weigh upwards of 220 pounds). They are the most numerous the arctic animals—some 6 million exist. 

   

But they also will eat Harp Seal and Bearded Seals which can weigh more than 600 pounds.  

   

Wow! There is nothing out here—not another ship, just ice, bears seals and other arctic wildlife. 

   

I meet people here who are on their first such expedition; others have been on many. Some give up a lot to be here, says Lisa Villar, a physical therapist from Chicago standing next to me on the bridge. Others seem to have unlimited resources and travel to far flung destinations several times a year. “This kind of trip makes it easy to go as a single person. There are always interesting people from different cultures and places,” says the 43-year-old Villar. 

   

In fact, by the second day of the voyage, people who were strangers the day before are joining one another for meals, exchanging tidbits about their lives and travels experiences, sharing binoculars and photo tips. One couple’s luggage didn’t arrive so they are traveling with mostly borrowed clothes. 

   

There is a sense of adventure and unpredictability of it all because we don’t know exactly what we are doing next—we don’t know when we might see a polar bear or a walrus or exactly where we will hike or be able to kayak. In between there are excellent meals (burgers fries and three kinds of salad for July 4th!) and lectures—one on glaciers this morning, another on photographing the world this afternoon by National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier this afternoon.  

   

Some pour over texts on wildlife in the well-stocked library while others simply relax with a massage (yes, there is a therapist on board). They go to the sauna and work out. Mostly everyone seems glad to have left every day concerns behind. I certainly am.  Internet connections are spotty at best which seems a good thing. 

   

The few kids on board, of course, have an entirely different perspective. The ship is bigger and the food better than 9-year-old  Evie Plunkett, traveling with her grandparents from Texas,  expected, she says.   

After the polar bears, the best part of the trip is having ice cream both at lunch and dinner—a treat she’s not permitted at home.  

   

Twelve-year- old Henry Douglas, meanwhile, here from New York City, notes that the never-ending daylight, despite black out shades, make it hard to sleep.  There is a scavenger hunt of the ship (What room would you find maps on a table and hot chocolate? How many windshield wipers are on the bridge?  What color are the lifeboats?)  

   

“I teach kids presence, timing, tone and place,” guide CT Ticknor told me over breakfast. “You can be negative or choose to be positive, wherever you are and whatever you are doing…You aren’t just taking a photograph, you are making a photograph in order to tell a story,” 

   

She gives the duo an assignment: Write down things they see that are different colors.  This would work on any trip, of course.  Fashion an alphabet based on where they are. CT and Evie were beginning to work on a photo calendar she was going to present to her grandparents. “I’ve been telling them thank you a lot,” she says. 

   

By the end of the trip, I think, they’ll be thanking Evie—for allowing them the privilege of seeing this wild and amazing place through her eyes. 

   

NEXT:  Food court for the animals 


Cruises & All-Inclusive, Destinations, Families & Groups, Parks & Outdoors, Travel Diary, Travel Topics | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Searching for polar bears in the water and ice

  1. Bronwyn Soell says:

    I know it sounds like the easy answer, but my entire family would most love to see polar bears. It’s sort of a family joke how much I like them- one of my husband’s first gifts to me was a giant oil painting of a polar bear!

    But mostly we would like to see them from a fear that they won’t be around in the wild much longer. With their habitat shrinking every year, I’m worried that soon people will only see polar bears in zoos. Don’t get me wrong- we love our local Brookfield Zoo and the polar bears there. But it just wouldn’t compare with seeing them in the wild!

  2. Sarah Bengtson says:

    I want to see a polar bear in the wild. I remember my uncle taking me to the Bronx Zoo two years ago and seeing one there, but I have never seen on in its natural habitat.

  3. Gosh, who wouldn’t like to see a polar bear!? Under the Northern Lights, if I could arrange it.
    However, my first choice of Arctic mammals to see would be the narwhal. The narwhal looks mystical, like an underwater unicorn. It can swim faster than a killer whale. It uses its tusk for “dueling” with other narwhals, but not as an act of aggression. I’d love to see one with my own eyes, not just in pictures.

  4. Kathleen says:

    I can’t imagine there is a better place to see polar bears in their natural habitat! For me though I’d love to see a harp or bearded seal. They seem so calm, almost wise, as if they know something we don’t.

  5. Barb says:

    Sounds like such a great adventure. I would love to see the ringed seals

  6. Precia says:

    The polar bears swimming would be on our list. We saw a brown bear swimming in a fjord in Alaska, so it would be fun to compare:)

  7. L Cavalletta says:

    Seeing polar bears in their natural habitat would be amazing!

  8. Pingback: Dream Big: Win A Galapagos Cruise | Traveling Mom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>






Connect

Facebook Twitter YouTube Follow us with RSS

Family Travel Guides for Every Season

eNewsletter Archives

Taking the Kids publishes two e-newsletters per month, filled with information and advice for families traveling with children as well as tips on destinations and special travel offers from sponsors.





Find your hotel at the best price
Compare booking sites with trivago!

Follow us on Twitter



Recent Comments:

  • Sarah @ A Week at the Beach: Staying someplace with a fridge is a MUST for our family too. We’re gearing up for our first Disney trip around Thanksgiving,...
  • Sari: We are planning a trip to Tulum for 5 nights… Getting worries about the water issue with my almost 2 year old… Should i be worried about...
  • Michaela Warren: Was wanting information for my grandson who is three years old. He is Special Needs chikd, Amputee from ABS, Failure to Thrive. Sensory...
  • chris: Need information about princess for a day for my daughter who is 5 years old
  • Tirun: A cruise is a wonderfully relaxed way of taking a vacation.
  • Katie (Beach for Baby): This is a very thorough guide. I worked for Princess Cruises at the HQ so we went on a lot of cruises. I have never really liked...
  • Fort Lauderdale fishing charters: Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can...