Scraping bones

Four years ago a dead whale was stranded in the North-west corner of Spitsbergen. That year every expedition ship in the area visited the place as many bears were feeding off the carcass. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there that year. Three years ago, I visited the place with the Noorderlicht. The year after few ships had a look, but there were just bones left with hardly any bear.

Polar Bear

My last cruise this year was one to East Greenland. But as the chances of seeing Polar Bears on East Greenland are quite slim, we spent 2.5 days on Spitsbergen searching for them… However, the west coast of Spitsbergen isn’t that good either… So after two days we still hadn’t found any bears… When I saw the Noorderlicht, I asked them if they had seen any lately. Maybe they were still around… To our great surprise, they said they had two bears in Sallyhamna, the place with the old whale bones. The next morning we were there, and indeed, we saw three bears still present. Four years after the whale had stranded. There was nothing left but bones, but that didn’t keep the bears from trying to get something from it. One bear was chewing on a bone and had actually already taken a chunk of the under-jaw and the other two were waiting at a distance. With all the ice gone for a while already, this was probably the only place they knew where there could still be some food and they were trying to survive until the ice would return this autumn.

For me it was a nice farewell to Spitsbergen, as that afternoon we set sail for East Greenland.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


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