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Thread: Barrow: Polar bears, King Eiders, Belugas... and more polar bears.

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Default Barrow: Polar bears, King Eiders, Belugas... and more polar bears.

    These are a few pictures from Friday the 13th... which was a very pleasant day to spend at the camp of the Savik Crew. Probably a mile southwest of Barrow, and maybe two miles out on the ice, setting at the edge of an open lead that is about 3 miles across.

    Several whales have been landed, and part of what made this day "interesting" was that the Edward Itta crew had landed and butchered a Bowhead whale about 150-200 yards northwest of the Savik camp. Every polar bear within sniffing distance was showing up to feed on scraps. Hence it was a constant watch in two directions, one on the ocean hoping for a Bowhead and in the other direction to avoid being surprised by any of the young, and curious, bears. Several times a bear would approach, but usually it just took a couple people making noise and waving their hands around to scare them off. Eventually two different bears overcame fear of that, and got close enough that a rifle shot into the ice to make a lot of noise was the only remedy.

    I'll post more than one article to show several images.

    First, here's one brash young bear just stomping right up. The Exif data says the focus distance here was 26 meters.



    But, in addition to probably 400 shots of polar bears, there was just a wonderful array of wildlife that made itself available... Here is a baby beluga following it's mother.



    This is the business end of a whaling boat. The harpoon has a loaded whale bomb gun on the end, with a toggling harpoon tip off to the right side. The plunger sticking out from the end of the bomb gun fires the weapon. The toggle on tip of the stinger embeds itself into the whale, and a float that is attached then plays out with maybe 100 feet of rope on it, and allows tracking where the whale is.


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    A seal showed up too, and stayed just long enough for a few pictures.



    Part of it is just waiting and watching...



    A few King Eider ducks swam by several times.


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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    This one is a Long Tailed duck in winter plumage.



    This is a shot of the observation lounge! Someone is always there, watching. A canvas wind break, a comfortable bench with a polar hide to sit on, coffee and snacks close by, the white stick pointing upwards is the antenna for a marine band VHF radio. The other social event is in a tent located behind and to the right of the photograph, where people eat, take naps, etc. Another point to make note of is that there are 6 or 7 snowmachines and sleds, all lined up headed for the trail. If the ice becomes unstable the entire camp takes 15-20 minutes to evacuate to a safer location.



    And once again, we all face off against bear. The Exif data says I'm 29 meters from this guy, and you can see that those two fellows up close are about half that. The fellow on the right has a rifle that can't be seen, and at this time it is aimed square on at that bear, in case it goes in the wrong direction. It refused to back off, and a shot was fired into the ice. Polar bears don't like loud noises... it ran.


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    Love it! What an awesome experience that must have been!

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    Those were great pictures! I'm looking forward to getting upnto the slope next week and see what kind of wildlife has come it with the warm weather.

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    Great to see these Floyd. Excellent pictures as we've come to expect from you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    Great to see these Floyd. Excellent pictures as we've come to expect from you.
    They never look as good when downsized and posted to the web. So far I've printed three of them; the one of three guys and the polar bear, the one of the harpoon, plus one that is different but similar to the one with Nat Snow sitting in the umiaq, all on 16x20 canvas for Roy Ahmaogak, the Savik Crew captain. They really look great printed on canvas.

    We're going to try to document as much of what they do this year as we can. Hopefully they'll catch a whale this spring; but if they don't they almost certainly will get one this fall.

    Whatever, I hope folks enjoy them, cause you can imagine from the array of subject matter just how much fun I had! It was just one fabulous shot after another while we sat there in the warm sunshine enjoying life. Hard to beat...

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    As always, excellent work Floyd! Just incredible.

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    Amazing pics Floyd! It must be something to have to watch every second for approaching bears. We have brown and black bears around here on the Kenai Peninsula, but most of the time they leave us alone. Anyway, good job!

    Marshall/Ak
    "I love my country...it's the government I'm scared of"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marshall/Ak View Post
    Amazing pics Floyd! It must be something to have to watch every second for approaching bears. We have brown and black bears around here on the Kenai Peninsula, but most of the time they leave us alone. Anyway, good job!

    Marshall/Ak
    I don't know if I should say it's worse than it sounds, or not as bad as it sounds! It's both in some ways. If you actually have to shoot one, that's bad, but almost any noise will scare them off so almost any gun will do. I've been present several times when a polar bear has been harvested. All were shot because someone wanted to, not because they had to. I've also had several bears come straight at me with the obvious intent, but in all cases noise was enough to run them off, and usually just a lot of hand waving will do it.

    However, the curious ones just sort of meander straight at you, but if a polar bear decides to actually stalk you they are very sneaky and will move only when you aren't looking at them. So spotting one that wants to eat you is a matter of noticing movement in your peripheral vision.

    One effect is that I'm very uncomfortable trying to photograph polar bears when alone. I tend to concentrate on what I'm doing to the exclusion of all else (a trait that is useful, but is the specific reason I never wanted to be an airplane pilot, where it's a deadly trait of have). Hence on occasions such as when this particular set of images was shot I'm very comfortable and enjoy it.

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    Very cool photos!

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