The Arctic-Entry 10
Well, as I feared, today was rather uneventful, with one exception. This morning at about 4AM, Matt Dyas, one of the producers, came and banged on my door. â€œPolar Bear,â€ he shouted and I immediately jumped out of bed. We had been told that it was very likely that we would see a Polar Bear out on the pack ice and everyone was on edge. A Polar Bear, imagine, the largest land carnivore in the world, the icon of the Arctic here and I would get to see it. I could barely get dressed fast enough and raced out of my cabin bounding down the stairs and out the door to the back deck. By this time it was a ways in the distance but with binoculars I could still see it quite clearly, its white fur only slightly darker than the snow.
Polar Bears are remarkable creatures, though they are capable of fast bursts of speed, they generally have a slow lumbering gate when they walk; this is to ensure that they donâ€™t overheat. They have hollow hair which provides excellent insulation and black skin underneath, which absorbs the heat from the sun. They live most of their life on the ice only gathering with other bears to mate. They are ferocious predators and will eat anything they can get their paws on. They are excellent swimmers and tenacious hunters. One of the cameramen on our shoot explained that during another expedition to the Arctic, his assistant was scuba diving and filming in the water when a polar bear turned up and jumped in. Feeling quite confident that he could just swim away from the bear by swimming down, he began his descent only to find the bear was following him. He had to swim down to 90 feet before the bear gave up! Thankfully, our bear was far away and we continued to watch as he faded into the distance.
After a few hours more of sleep it was morning and the first major day of diving under the ice. Tooni and Paul suited up and plunged in the water to explore the morphology of the ice from underneath. The visibility was no more than 10 feet, as the ice is melting more than anyone expected, which clouds up the water. That, coupled with the gear freezing up and the extreme cold, meant that everyone was focused on those dives and so Lucy and I had the day to ourselves.
I spent most of it reading, catching up on our research and playing guitar with intermittent visits outdoors to see what was going on. During one visit, another Polar Bear came to within a quarter mile of the boat; temporarily causing a panic and making everyone get off the ice and come onboard. The bear showed little interest in us though and kept on its way. I must admit that it was a rather frustrating day. Unable to leave the boat and go exploring, inactivity was getting to both Lucy and me, though I admit there are definitely worse places to be stuck for a day! Tomorrow should prove much more exciting, as Lucy and I will be investigating and documenting the various invertebrates that live under the ice. This is part of our work for the Census of Marine Life, then we will spend the afternoon drilling ice cores to determine the age of the ice we are moored to, in order to send that data to our contacts at NASA, to help them with their research on the changing nature of the Arctic ice flows.
All that being said, I better get to sleep. Goodnight.
To view all of Philippe's video blogs from Oceans, visit EarthEcho's Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/earthecho1 To learn more about the BBC/Discovery Channel co-production Oceans, visit: www.bbc.co.uk/oceans These blogs are the express product of Philippe Cousteau and represent his own experiences and opinions during the expedition. The views and opinions within are in no way representative of the BBC and do not necessarily represent the views of the BBC.