How not to get eaten by a polar bear
Humor aside, polar bears can pose a real safety concern to travelers in certain areas of the Arctic. This is why we follow strict safety protocol during all expeditions there. Though seeing a polar is a big part of why people visit the Arctic, the goal is not to end up inside of one. For this reason, we’ve made this informative polar bear safety video for returning passengers and newcomers alike.
In this video, our field operations manager, Adam Turner, demonstrates the extensive precautions we take to avoid polar bear confrontations. A veteran expedition leader with years of experience guiding travelers safely into and out of Antarctica and the Arctic, Turner’s tips comprise the core safety “commandments” when it comes to our operations in polar bear country.
These precautions include:
1. Scouting from the ship
Before any shore landing can be made, our expedition team (guides, crew, even the captain) pre-sight our intended landing area. These efforts are also aided by the passengers themselves. If any polar bears are seen on shore, we cannot land. But that does not mean we can’t enjoy watching the bear or bears from a safe distance, and in fact some of our best bear photos are captured this way.
2. Scouting from the Zodiac boats
Once we’re satisfied that our initial ship-to-shore search has revealed no bears, our guides will load into the Zodiac boats (which we use to deliver passengers to and from land) and do a closer search of the intended landing site. There are always areas we cannot fully see from the ship, so this additional precaution helps make sure no bears have escaped notice.
3. Scouting from the land
But because polar bears are evolutionarily designed to avoid detection in their natural habitat, preliminary scouting from the ship and Zodiacs is not enough to ensure that our intended landing site is bear-free. We must therefore get onto dry land for an even closer look, making sure that the environment is as safe as possible for our passengers.
4. Evacuating in the event of a sighting
Even when using the most stringent safety protocol, it’s impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of a polar bear encounter. In the exceedingly rare event a polar bear is spotted once we’re on shore, our guides will determine the best evacuation strategy. Passengers must then stop taking photos and follow all guide instructions for a safe and speedy escape.
5. Using safety flares and bear rifles as a last resort
In the Arctic, all our expedition guides carry flare pistols and bear rifles when on shore. We hope they never have to use them, but in the unlikely event a polar bear surprises our staff, these tools represent the final resort in preventing an attack. Since we recognize that we’re the visitors, we always exhaust all other possibilities before using flares or rifles.
If you’re interested in learning more about polar bear safety precautions in the Arctic, please feel free to visit our website and/or leave a question in the comments field.