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7 August, 2001

Bear Encounter

Tuesday, 7 August 2001


Life on Board

After breakfast, I headed up to Deck 4 to my cabin to put on outside gear for the 9 am Go-Flow seawater sample on the aft deck. Whenever you are going to work outside, on the ship or on the ice, you put on sweatpants or tights of some kind then heavy Gore-tex overalls, followed by a fleece jacket, heavy Gore-tex parka, hat, gloves, and waterproof boots. Depending on the weather and the amount of time you will be out, you may need even more. Dressing is quite a lengthy but necessary procedure, although for this one seawater sample from the deck, it doesn't usually take more than 30 minutes (unless we have to push icebergs out of the way), so it isn't that big of a deal. Anyway, when I was starting the final step of putting on my boots, I heard a commotion down the hall. People were shouting and running up and down the stairs. I popped around the corner, boots in hand, and asked someone hurrying by, "What's going on?"

"Bear. Aft deck," was the reply.

Jogging back to my room, I grabbed cameras and headed out onto my deck, figuring that it would be the best vantage point to see a bear off in the distance. Boy, was I wrong.

Momma and cub were sitting on that pesky iceberg that keeps getting in our way for CTD casts against the back of the ship. Now I sprinted. Down the outside stairs and onto the aft deck (where I was going to work anyway), how could they have gotten so close without being seen? The deck was lined with people. The cub was very curious and kept up a constant frustrated moaning sound, trying to get closer to the ship. Momma, staying back a bit, kept chuffing at him to come back to her. The cub actually looked like he was going to stand up and put his paws on the rubber bumper on the back of the ship. One of our security people scared him off at that point because he could probably hook onto that material with his claws and haul up onto the deck from there, perhaps causing a problem for him and us (he was big, probably a 2-year-old, and not very well-behaved according to his mother).

They decided to head off then, walking around the little open water lead behind the ship and in the direction of the ice camps. Coming upon the ice radiation sensor, they inspected the equipment then moved on to a bright blue flag marking off the area where you aren't supposed to tread. The cub was very interested in the flag and sat under it for some time, looking up. Finally, he got impatient and pulled the whole flagpole over (loss of government equipment, how much will that cost?). The bright blue flag fluttered away in the wind and he gave chase, into a snow gully. Momma was bored and moved away towards the next set of equipment. At that point, our coordinators decided that the pair needed some incentive to move along and the helicopter took off. It didn't buzz them, but made a sort of lazy, low approach so they had time to decide that this wasn't the place to be, and they slowly and reluctantly headed off into the icy landscape.

The scientists asked me (because I am The Teacher) if they could use the excuse that a polar bear ate their equipment if they didn't have their data prepared for our next meeting. Maria Lundin, owner of the radiation sensor, recovered her blue flag with a cub-sized dental impression in it.

Where Are We Now?

It was cloudy with intermittent sun most of the day and fairly windy (about 10 meters/sec this morning). In the afternoon the fog came in so the helicopter won't fly again until the fog clears. At 2:15 pm our coordinates were 88o38' North by 2o40' East

Scientists at Work

I had volunteered to be a bear spotter this afternoon at the meteorological tower but had to think about it a bit now. I've been wanting to take some pictures closer up and no one is allowed to just visit, so if you want to see it, you have to be working there in some capacity. Actually, the bridge will probably go on 24-hour bear watch from now on since we've had such a close encounter, and there are solid huts out there to duck into if there is a problem, and we always have radios and guns, so I'm not really worried. The snowmobiles have been out running perimeter checks, too. As it turns out, they already had someone else on bear watch today so I'll just catch up on my daily journals.

By the way, we did take our daily 2-meter seawater sample this morning, even though it was a little late, and processed it for dimethyl sulfide.

Vi ses! (See you later!)

From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, drifting, drifting, northeast of 88, Dena Rosenberger

Cub is in the front with momma behind him

Going to check out the radiation sensor and blue flag

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