Ironically, after having to explain to everyone for months where I was going/where I’d been, now all I have to say is “I was in that place in the Norwegian Arctic where that polar bear attack happened.”
It’s sad that this is the primary connection, now — with the predictable online polarization around any news issue. (See this story that talks about how this bear was underweight and starving, which also mentions Online Controversy about this issue).
It’s just not a simple issue. As someone commented on my previous post, when people go into polar bears’ territory, the bears are at risk. They don’t have to be, though — we had 14 encounters with polar bears, and none were dangerous for either us or the bears. We were in boats, they were on land. If we’d seen a bear while we were on land, we would have headed immediately for the boat. If it got closer or aggressive, there would have been warning shots. Usually, this works. Who knows what might have happened if the group of campers had had someone on sentry watch instead of relying on trip wires to alert them to a starving bear?
It does worry me, this starving bear, since the bear we saw dead on the beach was also very underweight. Even in a distant shot you can see that.
I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps the unexpected flow of pack ice that we experienced had something to do with this — ice helping bears move around to unexpected places, maybe something to do with climate change. I don’t know the cause, and two bears are not “data.” But it just reinforces, for me, the need to continue to pursue connections with polar bears and the polar region, to know and understand it and share that understanding. Because if bears are starving because of something changing in their environment, it’s important for us to know.
We just need to pursue these connections as safely as possible.