The day had started well, great intentions to travel across the 80 degree line and up to the High North and pack ice where we hoped to find Polar Bears hunting Seals. The storms that had blighted most of this trip were so bad we turned around a little over 80 degrees (we did cross it but another blog) and headed back to Mushamna where we had anchored the night before. Mushamna was a quiet little cove protecting the boat from rough sea's and high winds but also offering a thin layer of ice that was breaking up and we had previous evening seen seals hauled sleeping.
We had been sailing for 13 hours when we arrived back at Mushamna, tired disappointed and to be honest the group were for the first time not all at one because the turnaround was determined following a vote and majority decision. However that was about to be turned on its head because as we entered the security of the cove a Polar Bear was spotted on the ice and had spotted a single Seal laying a few feet from his water hole. I am not sure if the Seal was asleep or maybe distracted by the Boat but to witness this adult male Bear weighing maybe upwards of 500kg almost crawling along the ice toward the Seal was an experience I will never forget and ample evidence that you never know what will happen each day in the Arctic.
The giant predator moved slowly toward the Seal, downwind so eliminating smell on the breeze but also taking advantage of the Seal's poor eyesight. The speed with which the Polar Bear suddenly accelerated was absolutely staggering and to see it up close was a truly unbelievable experience. Its a tough world and Polar Bears make many failed attempts however as you will see and sad as it may be to some on this occasion the Bear was successful.
What happened next was as you can see quite amazing to see. With the Seal pinned down the Polar Bear stood over its prize, took a few moments to consider and then proceeded to lick the Seal before picking it up and killing it by thrashing it against the ice.
The Polar Bear started to consume the Seal and was very quickly joined by Ivory and Glaucous Gulls. They say Ivory Gulls can smell and are happy to feed off blood and certainly they were the first birds on the scene to join the Bear in its feast. Once the Bear had eaten an amount it then took the remains of the Seal to the edge of the ice and washed them before then burying them.
Having safely buried the Seal the Polar Bear then wandered around the ice a little before settling down and going to sleep enabling us to move a little closer with the Zodiacs before returning to our Boat.
We had been back on the Boat for around an hour when a female Bear with a tracking tag turned up, seemed to know exactly where the Seal remains had been buried, dug them up and moved off. Polar Bears have an amazing sense of smell identifying food from many miles away and this female had done well to get around the sleeping male and try to steal his food. However the sleeping male awoke and refreshed from his snooze set about recovering his prize.
The female is no match for a large male such as this Bear and she quickly dropped the Seal and moved away in search of other food. With the Seal safely recovered the male Bear again washed the Seal before eating almost the remainder in total. With very little left the bear buried what little remained before moving off.
Before leaving the Bear went for a swim and having satisfied himself that the remains of his meal were safe, headed off in search of new food. As you will discover in my blog "playful young male" the remains did not stay safe for long as the next passer by a young male Polar Bear discovered the Seal.