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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Follow me, dears: Mother leads cubs on epic 60-mile swim for their lives after being marooned on an ice floe

By Leon Watson

A family of polar bears swim for their lives after the ice sheet they were hunting on melted before their eyes.

The mother and her two six-month-old cubs got marooned 60 miles out to sea in Svalbard, Norway, in the Arctic Circle.

The cubs were seen clambering on to the floating ice sheet, while their mother planned their next move.

A polar bear and her two six month old cubs swim 60 miles back to shore after global warming caused an ice sheet to melt in Svalbard, Arctic
The blocks of ice sprawled hundreds of miles into the Greenland Sea.

Rising temperatures caused by global warming has seen the polar bear's natural habitat fall apart.

Photographer Dennis Bromage, 37, from Stockton-on-Tees said: 'It's tragic. The baffled bears just stared into the water as if to say, "where did all the ice go?"

'The family were on the ice when it was one big sheet, but then it just broke up around them and they were left stranded.'

These polar bears were marooned on a tiny iceberg as the ice sheets melt before their eyes

Hungry: The two six month old polar bear cubs huddle with their mother as the ice sheet melts around them in Svalbard, Arctic

The cubs follow their mother over the remaining ice sheet in a desperate bid for survival

Dennis, who was only 10ft away from the bears on a boat, said: 'Their main sources of food are out to sea. If forced ashore, they will starve for the summer because there is just nothing for them to eat.

'The ice is breaking up earlier and earlier every year. But the bears will cling on to the ice for as long as they can.'

Last year scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder revealed water flowing from the North Atlantic into the Arctic is at its warmest level for more than 2,000 years.

Marooned: The bear cubs look around perplexed as they are left stranded 60 miles out to sea

Many polar bears face starvation during the summer months - and are forced to forage for food inland

According to their research, the sea in the Gulf Stream between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard reached an average of 6C (42F) in recent summers, warmer than at natural peaks during Roman or Medieval times.

Scientists fear the temperature spikes could lead to an ice-free Arctic in years to come and could endanger polar bears, who need the ice in order to survive.

Studies show between 1979 and 2009 an area larger than the state of Alaska disappeared.



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