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Friday, October 7, 2011

Leap of faith: The moment polar bear jumped between two melting ice caps

By Daily Mail Reporter

Bouncing beast: A polar bear leaps from one piece of pack ice to the next off the coast of Svalbard, Norway

With ice in the polar regions disappearing at record speed this hunting polar bear is literally taking a leap of faith jumping between two ice caps.

The amazing picture was taken by American wildlife photographer Rebcecca Jackrel during a 22-day sailing expedition to capture the bears in their natural environment. The photographer, from San Francisco, travelled to the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet in the independent archipelago of Svalbard to stake out her subjects.

There she spent three weeks in a tiny boat watching more than twenty different bears go about their daily routine of hunting from the ocean What emerged is a fascinating insight into the behaviour of these often maligned animals in their natural habitat.

Coming in to land: The bear was bounding about as was out hunting seals

Rebecca explained: 'We never slept for more than 4 hours at a time and had someone posted on watch round the clock.

'We ate when there was no activity, sometimes dinner was at 6pm and sometimes 2am so it was a very different, very intense trip. 'I don't believe many polar bear were able to slip past us undetected.' Despite having to contend with the biting cold and the knowledge that the an attack from a wild animal was ever-present Rebecca revealed the real challenge of her mission was the clothes she was forced to wear.

'By the time you get all the layers of clothing on to keep you from freezing or developing frostbite it's almost impossible to move,' she explained.

'Anyone who ever wore a snowsuit as a child knows how hard it is to put your arms down once you are geared up. 'Finding a tiny shutter button through thick gloves? Impossible.'

However, behind the striking photography of a species perfectly adapted to its frozen environment, Rebecca wishes to raise awareness about the perilous future the bears face.

Just me and my reflection: A bear yawns in preparation for a nap on the sea ice

Slippery business: A bear slides off the snow bank, left, while another, right, surveys the sea for seals while standing on a perilous icy perch

Taking a dip: The bear enjoys a midnight swim in Smeerenburgfjorden in Svalbard

She said: 'The Arctic Ice cap expands and shrinks with the seasons but historically there has been a large portion of the cap that never melts called multi-year ice.

'In the winter when ice is plentiful in the circumpolar region bear are able to hunt the seals they need to survive with relative ease. 'But 2011 showed the second lowest level of Arctic ice in recorded history.

'In the summer the ice retreats from the circumpolar region and the bear need to swim further and further from land in order to find ice to hunt on.

'While polar bear are incredible swimmers - some have been tracked swimming continuously for over 100km - they tend to get into trouble when the sea gets choppy. 'Sea ice tends to settle the sea, blocking the wind from creating large waves and without that protection the wave grow and break over the bears as the swim.

'The more they have to fight to keep their head above water for air the more tired they become and without ice or land to haul out on, eventually they will drown.'



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