+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

I am back in the Arctic; this time on the west coast of Greenland and Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. We are hoping to get up towards 80 degrees alongside Ellesmere Island, from whence so many early North Pole attempts originated.
We have onboard a local Inuit, specialising in Greenlandic Culture and in charge of the Polar Bear protection program. Wayne is stocky, powerfully built and a man of few words. I was fortunate enough to coax a few stories out of him on deck yesterday, which I feel are worth sharing. In 30 adult years in the Arctic, he has had to shoot two bears in defence of guests. In one case school children. Notably a Polar Bear gallops much like a horse, and can reach 50km/hr. Tragically, the third bear he was obliged to put down was a very old, emaciated female who just kept walking calmly towards his group. Inuit who were present maintain she wanted a meal, or to be put out of her misery, and she received the second option, much to the sadness of all. The curtains closed on her life.

In one situation, Wayne was working at a remote camp with an electric fence around the perimeter on account of bears. Usually a shout or hand clapping was enough to encourage bears to move off. On this particular day, part of the fence was down on account of pipe repairs. A colleague told Wayne there was a bear on the fence near the gap. Wayne walked out (without a rifle) and got about 50 yards from the bear, and 50 yards from the building. He clapped his hands, whereupon the bear dropped his head and charged. Wayne sprinted back towards the building, everyone shouting, the bear gaining on him fast. He sprinted up the stairs, and slammed the heavy glass door behind him as the bear hit the door! Those inside the room could see the bear trying to chew the door open through the glass. The bear then went back downstairs and looked into each window, about 8 feet off the ground, trying to find a way in.
I listened in awe of these stories, from a local with a deep knowledge and love of Polar Bears.
Two adult Polar Bears on our proposed landing site yesterday obliged us to change the whole operation to Zodiac tours only. We have appointed bear guards who land first, scout the area, and establish a safe perimeter keeping a constant eye out for bears. The principal aim being to avoid any interaction with a bear becoming a confrontation. Seeing Wayne high above us on a ridge, with binoculars and his .375 rifle is very comforting, although bang flares are our first go-to bear deterrent.

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