Once in a lifetime … or …?
“Goodmoooorning folks, goodmooorning”, the voice from our expedition leader Nathan echoed through our cosy triple porthole cabin on board of Ortelius at 05.40 a.m.
Polar bear alarm
Normally I would have put my pillow over my head and turn around, but now I was wide awake in an instant and even more, dressing up in a split second. And all this in a nervous, hurriedly way, eager not to forget putting on all the layers of clothes, all neatly piled up the evening before, necessary for going out in the cold. Next to me were my two fellow travellers doing exactly the same. It would have been an energetic scene I guess! Finally (felt like ages), I was in my warm boots, wind- and water protected trousers and jacket, armed with my camera, ready to go out on deck.
A polar bear alarm set this all up. I wasn’t even the first to arrive on deck (how’s that possible?!), and several other expedition clad figures were shooting at the polar bear. With a camera that is, since the King of the Arctic is heavenly protected nowadays (fortunately!)
I watched and peered and clenched my eyes and saw a lot of polar bear shaped figures, but the real one I hadn’t spotted yet. And then finally, miles away (so it seemed) I saw the master of the ice world patching around on the pack ice. Stunned, but also a bit disappointed because of the distance, I followed him along with my eyes and camera. All too soon it was gone and I had a bit of a feeling “Was this it”?
Over to the order of the day, we enjoyed an early and tasty breakfast in the restaurant. After that we went for a lazy sit and hot coffee in the lounge. Although we thought so! Just sipping our first “medicine”, another announcement from our Nate rolled through the speakers: a second polar bear had been spotted!
Now we were, still fully clad and armed, the first to be on deck and I spotted it immediately, a yellowish dot of fur in respectable distance, but all too close to be seen appropriately. It came just out of sleep and yawned, and stretched and rolled through the snow. And immediately it stole my heart!
I was stunned, couldn’ t get my eyes away of it. This was the main purpose of my (long well considered and long saved up for) journey. And now my dream had become truth. And this was just the beginning of the polar bear show it was going to give us! It took sudden interest in our expedition ship and it lay easily down and started to inspect us, by smelling and watching.
Too far away probably, because in slow motion it started to get up, sniffed and looked in all directions, and moved paw after paw towards our ship, jumping and clawing ice floes and coming closer in a slow, majestic, elegant way. Sometimes it sat itself and had an easy going look around. Then getting up again, coming very close and almost entering the ship, but no, it encircled the bow of Ortelius very closely, for me it disappeared at the portside of the ship and returned at the starboard side.
Looking so cuddling and yet being such a dangerous predator, I had never seen any creature of greater beauty. Not even the jaguar I spotted in a tree a couple of years ago, not even the elephants who passed by on me at close distance with the only sound to be heard that of their flapping ears. Stunning moments, which I have lived through ever since. But now they seemed to fade away, and being replaced by this big, but ever so beautiful, graceful, cute looking, cuddly (I know better, since given all the information in lectures from the marvellous expeditions team of Ortelius!) animal.
Yellowish fluff with bright shiny black eyes and nose, opposite a sharpened black, white and blueish grey wonder winter world. King of this world! Its image now also started fading away, on the one hand side because it was moving away from the ship now, on the other hand because of my eyes started to blur, not from the cold wind this time, but from the emotion of me seeing my polar bear in a way I could have only dreamed of. I can only hope that it will not really fade away and will still be on our planet for ages and ages. Now mankind isn’t a treath any more, the global warming sure is. I for myself intend to do as much as possible on sustainable energy in all possible ways. Keeping the image of Fluffy in my mind, I must succeed!
On our last day we received a survey concerning our journey; one of the questions was: “what was the absolute highlight?”
And of course, we saw other, marvellous animals on this trip and even so breath taking sceneries.
We enjoyed so much adventurous Zodiac trips and hiking trails abroad, in which lay so much beauty around every corner. Thanks to the highly experienced expedition team. Next to that- a highlight on its own - the always friendly appearance of all personnel and staff!
Sailing through the pack ice, my second best experience, or was this the plunging in the polar sea??
All second bests! But my - once in a lifetime – (first) close encounter with my polar bear was the best experience ever I had during a journey! Thanks for that!