Our last full day at sea was September 3.  We awoke nearing Monument Island on a cold, wet, blustery morning. The island is so named as the top apparently resembles a monument.  Unfortunately, ceiling this morning was about 100 feet so we have no idea what the island looks like.

I don’t think any of the weather or sea requirements were met but we were told they were putting the zodiacs in the water to explore the rocky shore of the island. (I suspect this would not have been risked had it not been our last day.)  At any rate, the dumbest 2/3 of us were in the zodiacs and away from the ship by 9:15, heading to the island a couple of miles away.

Once we got away from the lee side of the ship, waves and wind became more severe but by that time we were committed. 

Mother Polar bear As we neared the island we spotted a mother polar bear and yearling cub with another bear slightly lower, only a couple of hundred yards away from us.  We watched them for a time all the while being buzzed by dozens, probably hundreds of Black Guillemot. 

Caption: Polar Bear in the Mist. Photo by Janet Lalonde.

We then travelled along the shore which was a fantastic mix of broken rock and crashing waves.  Great views even in the bouncing boat. We presently caught up with a herd of about fifty walrus and followed them around to the leewardish side of the island.  There we spotted another bear and when coming closer discovered it was a solitary male and nearby was a sow and 2 yearling cubs – one male and one female.  The (very knowledgeable and very interesting) bear guy on board said he thought the sow probably weighed 225-250 kilos. The cubs would be 20-22 months old, and less than 8 months from being on their own.  He guessed the male at 175 kilos and the female at 150 or less.  He also thought, based on the number of guillemots still around the base of the cliffs, they must still be fledging and the bears were there because they were raiding nests.  He disagreed with me, and another High-Arctic veteran, that the big male was probably stalking the sow and young looking to kill one of them for meat.  I based my guess on the fact that the male was upwind and out of sight of the family group. The bear guy said he did not think the male would dare take on such a hefty adversary as the two near adults and their mother.  We did not stick around to find out.

Caption: Polar Bear Family Group. Photo by Janet Lalonde,

walrusesOn the return trip along the shore, we came across another two herds of walrus.  They seemed to actually enjoy the crashing waves.  In total we think we saw over 100 walrus; another treat on an otherwise crappy day.

Caption: Walrus Shots by Janet Lalonde.

Getting home was another issue.  Seas were even higher and cold bones do not move as easily as warm ones.  However we both made the fluctuating step onto the stairs and then climbed successfully to the deck. Actually we didn’t lose anyone into the gap between rocking zodiac and slippery, curved stairs the whole trip. The gods were with us.