National Geographic : 1971 Apr
patterns-part of an international study of these animals, which are threatened by encroaching civilization. Clinging to the ladder aloft, I looked around and marveled at the beauty of the Arctic under the midnight sun. The ice was bathed in fragile pink light; frosty sea smoke hung low over open leads, where the water shone black. In distant bluish haze loomed Halv mane0ya-Half-moon Island-and the steep snow-covered mountains of Edge0ya, where four of us would spend nearly a year ashore. Birger handed me his binoculars. "Two bears. They disappeared just behind the ice berg up ahead," he said. "A sow with a cub." I spotted them when they emerged. The mother's rather small head swayed back and forth on her powerful neck as she moved with 576 surprising grace across the uneven pack. For a female, she was big-perhaps 600 pounds. The chubby youngster trotted close behind her. The pair seemed oblivious of our ship, only a few hundred yards away. "We'll catch them easily," I said. Birger nodded and turned to the wheelhouse inter com: "Full speed and right rudder." The rig ging vibrated as the ship turned slowly in the lead, cracking an ice floe under her bow. I hurried down the ladder. Waiting on deck were other members of our international crew: Dr. Erickson, polar bear specialist from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Charles Jonkel of the Canadian Wildlife Service, and two German wildlife photographers, Eugen Schuhmacher and Hans Bopst, of the World Wildlife Fund, one of our supporters.