Sunday, 31 March 2013

Polar Bear Sighted!

We have some serious and incredible news. A Polar Bear has been sighted near the ship.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, this is from the scientists aboard British Antarctic Survey Voyage the JR281 on the James Clark Ross. We  have spotted a Polar Bear near the coast of the South Orkney Islands in the South Atlantic. As far as we know this is the first recorded sighting of a polar bear in Antarctic waters.

This afternoon, after completing a large number of Mooring recoveries and CTD casts, almost all the crew and scientists were inside the ship. It was -15 C outside and just beginning to snow. Phil Mele from Lamont-Doherty in New York was the only one outside. He was preparing a sounder to find the location of our next mooring retrieval. He spotted the polar bear on a nearby raft of ice. He began yelling out. Thankfully Gwyn Evans was nearby on an upper deck and heard Phil. Gwyn quickly took this photo:

Gwyn then ran down to the lower deck and managed to take this photo before the bear ran away and swam to a larger ice flow in the distance.

Gwyn and Phil quickly contacted the bridge. I heard Phil's calls from the main lab and saw the bear from the window but couldn't get a clearer picture by the time I got my camera. The captain has steered the ship toward the direction the bear headed and we have suspended other work to try and find it. It became dark very soon after we saw it and there is very little moonlight so far tonight.

The internet is very slow and we are trying to contact all the relevant authorities. Polar Bears are only thought to be found in the Arctic. We are not sure whether the bears are here due to a freak of nature or some sort of bizarre accident/experiment. Jean-Baptiste Sallee, Andy Watson and the Captain have called the British Antarctic Survey head office and they are contacting CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), other government and nongovernment organisations and the media. There are no polar bear experts on board but from the photos the bear appears healthy. BAS has also contacted media outlets and JB has been interviewed by the Guardian.

More news to come.



  1. Ah. It is a well known phenomena here on Lewis that the polar bears are subject to a strange magnetic anomaly on the 1st of April. You are indeed very lucky to have wqitnessed this sight as it has until now been kept fromt he scientific world. Happy April 1st xx

  2. Jan, you truly are a God. Your blog is a treat to read, and this post in particular made my day. Thanks for taking the time to write this, and to send it to the continent for us abandoned girlfriends to read.