Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Polar Bear covered in Seal blood

It was past midnight as the powerful Canadian icebreaker d’Iberville crushed through the ten-foot-thick sea-ice of the Arctic Archipelago. But here, on the top of the world at north latitude 80 degrees, there was still enough light to see the huge polar bear. He had obviously just finished eating a seal. A very big seal by the look of the bloodstained surface of the ice hummock upon which he was lying. And a big seal by his sleepy non-reaction to the loud screeching and scraping made by our approaching ship’s two-and-a-half-inch-thick steel bow plates as they rasped aside hunks of ice as big as double-decker buses.
That two-tone bear, snow-white on top with blood-red underparts, was relaxing in exquisite post-prandial tranquillity. So, as I saw Captain Caron reach over to the whistle handle to give a sudden blast to startle the Arctic stillness and get the bear up and moving, I raised my hand in polite protest and shook my head. The captain, shrugged, smiled, and desisted from his usual practice upon seeing a bear and came over to the port side of the bridge next to me. We were now within a few hundred feet of the somnolent bear and it looked as if we would pass within little more than thirty yards of him. Yet still he didn’t move. Just raised his head a little and looked at the ship’s massive bulk through glazed, uncomprehending eyes. He must have eaten a giant of a seal.
As we passed by, the captain and I engaged the bear in an eye-to-eye exchange through our binoculars. We could make out every detail of the bear and his bloodstained coat and surroundings. The staring contest went on for several long seconds. We won. He blinked first. And for the second and third times, also. That massive meal had left him totally bereft of any antagonism or interest in anything in his field of vision, direct or peripheral.


  1. I was absolutely disgusted, affronted and annoyed by this blood-thirty account of a polar bear noshing on seals while the writer passed by without intervening. Surely he had a rifle handy! These bears should be re-educated perhaps in government-run schools (perhaps the Christian Brothers could take this on; they seem to have the right approach to recalcitrant students).


    M. Jean (Rght. Hon.)

  2. In belated reply to morrow2's blatant counterfeiting of professed disgust by our esteemed GG, concerning a true-blue Canadian white polar bear going about its own legitimate gastronomical business in its own legitimate back yard, I can only surmise that morrow2's only forlorn purpose in its vehemence is to fish for an invite to Brigitte Bardot's next topless birthday party. The musical saga portraying my personal and laudable intimate socializing with seals, as recounted in this blog, (see above), proves my legitimacy to treat morrow2's tirade with a large pinch of sea salt. —John Ough