At first, the white speck looked like a patch of snow on the cliff. But as the Zodiac inflatable boat got closer, Jenny realised it was a polar bear. ‘I knew instantly what he was doing and why,’ she says. Polar bears require sea ice for every essential aspect of their lives. They normally feed on blubber-rich marine mammals, and they rely on a sea-ice platform to catch their prey. But in an increasing number of regions, the sea ice now melts completely in summer, forcing the bears ashore. There they must starve until the sea ice forms again in winter. This hungry young male was desperately attempting to climb down the rock face to scavenge eggs from nesting Brünnich’s guillemots, ‘risking his life and probably expending more energy climbing than he would have gained from any meagre meal of eggs.’ Jenny photographed the spectacle in the Ostrova Oranskie region of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago on a trip to the newly opened Russian Arctic National Park. Historically, the sea ice to the far north and east of the islands has remained frozen in summer, but in recent years it has receded further, melted earlier and taken longer to freeze up again. On every summer Arctic trip she has done during the past several years, Jenny has watched bears swimming far out to sea in an attempt to find ice or land. With the continuing loss of ice cover and other temperature-related changes, she regards the Arctic as ‘the ecological equivalent of a war zone’.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III + 100-400mm lens at 275mm; 1/800 sec at f5.6; ISO 800.
Novaya Zemlya, Russkaya Arktika National Park, Russia