Time is running out for Polar Bears! The smallest extent of sea ice ever recorded in recent summers has made life difficult for the bears in Svalbard. The ones, which have not followed the sea ice north to beyond 81 degrees as it receded, have found themselves stranded on land, where they have to make do with birds' eggs and whatever they can get hold of. They need ice to be able to hunt seals, which in turn also need the ice to be able to haul out from time to time. Unfortunately the only ice left by midsummer this year was to be found at the calving faces of glaciers.
Although we enjoyed some great encounters on our recent 2016 cruise, Polar Bear numbers were down, at 11 against 22 last time Mike was there in 2012. In fact our expedition leader, Arjen Drost, commented that he had only seen a total of 24 this year since May despite several visits to the pack ice on larger cruise vessels and 11 of these were on our cruise. Happily some of the bears we saw had obviously been doing very well but a few were quite skinny as has been an inreasing trend in recent years.
So... the Polar Bears should still be good for some years yet but who knows for how long we can keep saying this? We are almost full for our 2017 cruise aboard the wonderful SV Noorderlicht already and have some bookings for our 2018 cruise too. The general view is a that a visit to Svalbard sooner rather than later is a good idea if you want to see some healthy Polar Bears! Please get in touch!
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