White bear is also known as a polar, north or maritime bear. It is the largest land predator. Some call polar bear the master of the Arctic, but the real owner of icefields is thуwalrus. From other members of bear family polar bear is distinguished by its flat head and long neck. Its fur can be pure white, and slightly yellowish. Inuits say that some polar being stuffed with blueberries can be painted with blueberry juice. White color helps the animal to melt into snow and ice. The same Inuits joke that when polar bear is sneaking up on seals, it covers its nose with paw or snow, so that the black spot does not revealits presence.
Nature took care of the polar bear: the soles of its feet are covered with hair to make them warm and avoid slippery on ice; betweentoes there is a flipper; and bear claws are so strong that even a powerful prey cannot escape its paws. Like a human bear stands fully on the entire surface of its paw. Polar bear is found in the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere in countries such as Canada, Russia. Polar inhabits mainland and pack ice (Drift ice is ice that floats on the surface of the water in cold regions, as opposed to fast ice, which is attached ("fastened") to a shore. Usually drift ice is carried along by winds and sea currents, hence its name, "drift ice". When the drift ice is driven together into a large single mass, it is called pack ice. Wind and currents can pile up ice to form ridges three to four metres high - Wikipedia).
Sometimes in summer bears on pack ice reach as far as Greenland and Iceland. During our trip to Iceland local guide told us that a local girl once saw a bear. The child was not ready to face the animal and, when she ran into the village, she shouted that a very large white sheep is approaching. Alas, such bear strangers are doomed to elimination, as the return of such a "lost soul" to its habitat is very expensive. The resident of coastland and ice - polar bear feeds on sea animals in winter, mainly seals and eared seals. To get them it needs quite a skill and patience, and sometimes it can attack female walrus or its calf. In summer it descends to grass, moss, algae, berries, lemmings, at times waterfowls and their eggs, rarely fish (in contrast to its brown brothers) and all kinds of carrion.In general, polar bear does not have a well-to-do life in the Arctic –it is good if during a year it can catch 40-50 seals, and this is just a "square dinner" every 7-8 days. In so doing the bear has to spend hours and days on the ice near ice-hole waiting for seal to come up for a breath. Polar bears are single predators and, alas, cannibals as male can kill calves when female is weak and cannot defend its offspring. Cubs stay with female for until2 years of age.
Over winter pregnant females, young or old animals hibernate. Hibernation lasts from a few days or weeks up to two months. Like all animals in the Arctic, bear takes a nap in the lee of the ice ridge, stones or other natural barriers from the merciless and penetrating Arctic wind. For a long hibernation females build large, sometimes even two-chamber dens. Polar bears are real experts in tracking. They seem to have an aukward gait but can reach the speed of 25-30 km per hour. Polar bear is a wonderful swimmer and diver. If necessary it can swim long distances, but is absolutely helpless in the water. Bear population is rapidly disappearing. According to Canadian researchers polar bear populationin Alaska and Greenland vanished, in Canada it is quite small, but stable; polar bears also inhabitSvalbard and Greenland. We could not find any data about the number of polar bears in Russia. Despite the fact that the polar bear is listed as endangered species, alas,illegal and totally unpunished hunting is still on in the North. Due to environmental aggravation and pollution of Russian Arctics polar bear habitat is rapidly decreasing and old memories of the frequent traveler encounters with polar bears are gone.
An interesting fact: these giants seem to have a cheerful mood and when stuffed like to run around and hang out with each other. Young bears (like all young animals - see the picture of sea lions) often rise on their hind legs and begin to play-fight with each other trying to bend opponent down to the ground. Meanwhile they behave so non-aggressively that their fight seems more like a dance. Animals hold each other by paws, whirl, competing in strength, can bite opponent's neck or hit by paw. These dances, as a rule, take place in several rounds, each 15 minutes long. Getting tired bears splitand fall down in the snow to have arest and recuperate.
Little cubs as well as adult animals are also fond of chuting. This is often done for the forced rapid descent, but at times bears, like humans, choose a good hill, enjoy sliding from it several times, doing it in different funny poses.
The word Arctic comes from the Greek - Аρκτικός (arktikos), "near the Bear, northern". These animals were known to the ancient Romans in the first century AD. In 1774, the polar bear as separate species was first described in scientific literature by English zoologist Constantine Phipps.
The peoples of the Arctic, Inuit and Eskimos, hunted polar bears for long. With the development of the North by people, the number of polar bears declined. At present hunting polar bear is banned almost everywhere, but, as mentioned earlier, there are rare cases of poaching and hunting for fun, in Russia and in Svalbard. Polar bears are known for their curiosity. And they inspect everything on their way.
FROM OBSERVATIONS OF OUR TRAVELERS
My life has been associated with the polar bear since early childhood. On the first birthday I was given a huge polar bear, very heavy and smiling. I could sleep with the bear, sit on it, put on it different clothes and ride it in the carriage. Without it any good action game was impossible. Love of the bear was added by the cartoon film about Umka bear cub. So somewhere in my subconscious mind I got the image of a polar bear as a cheerful, kind chap, who cannot hurt anybody.
In the zoo polar bears were somewhat sad and spent all the time in the water, which was fairly littered with plastic bottles and debris boards. Some bears gained a greenish tint and made us feel dull and depressed.
When choosing my first trip animal to watch animals in natural habitat, I knew for sure that my main goal is to see a bear. By chance the choice fell on Svalbard.
On board the ship in all imaginable and unimaginable places there were posters - warnings about what a terrible animal bear is, how it attacks without warning, kills quickly and without mercy. Before landing our group leaderszealosly inspected the coast from the ship, sent out a patrol boat to check the coast in search for the presence of bears. And only after these precautions under "escort" of the group leader, armed with a rifle, we were allowed on shore. The chance of meeting a polar bear melted before our eyes. On board we could see with binoculars some white dots moving along the shore, and these observations just stirred up only further interest. In the evening group leader shared their stories about polar bears and their pictures.After such a "Murphy’s Law" one wanted to become a polar bear and bloodily deal with those who abused us so much. In agreement with group leaders, many tourists slept in the clothes, so that at first notice they could be ready to run out on deck and finally see their first "white miracle" on a drifting ice. And here comes a lucky chance: a female bear who enjopyed eating its prey seal. Neither fog, nor cold could stop enthusiasts from watching it. The female had been eating for long, so that when the ship approached itrand slowed down, it assessed its prey for the last time, and making sure that nothing tasty is left, just sat down nearby, unable to move on without a break. It was not at all curious about the ship.Dull seating was followed by rolling along the ice from side to side, like tumbler toy. It did not pay any aggression or interest to us. After sitting a little it looked at the ship once again and went to the edge of the ice. My previous knowledge told me that bears like to swim only in captivity and in natural habitat they avoid swimming and especially diving. Nothing like this happened this time. With the skill of an athlete the bear deep dived and swam away from the ship. The most amazing thing was that from her diving the surface of the water hardly stirred up. Later, when I watched closely humpback whales, I was struck by the way these giants went under water, without any tremor on the surface. Real first rate performance!
The second meeting with bears occurred in Canada in the Churchill area. Attracted by the smell of food coming from our mobile camp, bears were buzzing around. One female or a young one lay down next to us in the hope of having something after we leave. In Canada most of the bears are counted and have radio transmitters on their neck. To see a bear without collar is a good luck. At a distance bear seems to be a self-sustained, a bit sad intellectual, doomed to wander in the ice wilderness. One can feel sorry and desire to stroke it behind the ear and bury oneself in its long hair. I was amazed by one female who rose up against my car window. Close-set beady eyes pierced me impassively, its nose shook a bit, but no more emotions were revealed on its funny face. It looked at me the same way my first teddy bear looked at me in my childhood.
Actually, polar bear does not have an easy life and it is not such a powerful master of the Arctic, as they used to say. In the book "The World of the Polar Bear" by R. Perry you can find a lot of interesting facts about this amazing animal. Why, for example, it avoids walking on stones and melted ice, and prefers snowfields; howbear hunts, using ice and rocks when catching walruses and seals; how bear waits for its seal near the igloo or snowhouse, a dome-shaped structure, which seal or eared seal create by their breath in the ice above ice-hole.
POLAR BEAR IN MYTHOLOGY
Polar bear is one of the main characters of myths, legends and fairy tales of the peoples of the North. It is often found in the folklore of the peoples of the North, where relations between a man and a polar bear were considered as very close. There are a lot of stories about their turning into each other, birth of mutual children. For example, in the mythology of Inuit Eskimos there is a bear Nanook, which has supernatural power and strength, and which Eskimos considered not only as their ideal, but also a close relative. Therefore, many myths of these people contain stories about marriages between people and bears.Nenets people believe that the ability to use fire came to humans from the polar bear. In fishing rituals of some of the rites of northern people they still use ritual dances depicting a hunter and a polar bear. Inuits say that if they merge with polar bear in the art of trapping seals, their hunting would be much more successful. Bear image was often associated with the moon. The Lord of the hunters - man-moon, according to the ancient northern legends, treavels in a sleigh, drawn by polar bears. In some of Evenki astral myths three stars of the Big Dipper are understood as mythological bear Mangi, and the Milky Way as ski trail of bear-hunter. In the culture of the Middle East (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan) symbolic meaning of polar bear relates to its fantastic endurance, courage and strength. Bear features can be found in male Labrador Inuit Torngarsoaka deity, who is worshiped in the form of polar bear. In the fine arts of northern peoples polar bear plays a special role. Its image can be found on embroideries and appliqués of clothing, sculptures of stone, tusks and bones.
POLAR BEAR IN HERALDRY
The polar bear is a traditional symbol of Chukotka and is a part of the emblem of the Chukotka Autonomous Region. Perhaps, it was chosen as the symbol of power and strength of the people living there.
The coat of arms of Greenland also has the image of white polar bear on a blue background, which symbolizes the waters of the Arctic and Atlantic oceansthat wash the island.
POLAR BEAR IN FICTION
"The Polar Bear and Brown Bear". Fairytales of the peoples of Russia told by Mark Vatagin, including Nenets fairy tale which gave the name to the whole book.
Dan Simmons' “The Terror”. The plot is absed on a true story of the expedition of the British Arctic explorer John Franklin.
Ulf Stark’s "Let Polar Bear Dance". Loved by many this is a story about a teenager Lasse in search of comprehending the complexity and subtlety of human relations. In this case, most likely, the image of dancing polar bears is used as anamazing combination of formidable outward appearance and quite harmless, touching habit, as a reminder of the unpredictability and the mystery of the soul, both animal and human.
POPULAR AND SCIENCE FICTION ABOUT BEARS
R. Perry. "The World of Polar Bear".
Haig-Thomas D. "Footprints in the Snow" (1939). English zoologist, who traveled to Greenland and Canadian Arctic islands.
Pedersen A. "White Bear" (1945, 2nd ed., 1957) and "Polar Animals" (1962). Danish explorer and zoologist.
Sylvia Dolson. "Bear-Ology",- a marvelous book, written with great humor and love for the bears.
Robert Bider. "Bear".
Wayane Lynch. "Bears, Bears, Bears».
Ian Stirling. "Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species".
Norbert Rosing. "The World of the Polar Bears".
POLAR BEAR IN CINEMA
"Knut and his friends" (Germany). The film is about anorphan bear cub who found refuge in Berlin zoo. In parallel with its story unfold are stories of the families of brown bears from Belarus and polar bears in the North, where new cubs were born. A very talanted documentary with awerome shooting of animals, especiallybeautiful and charming cubs.
"Polar History (Bear in the North)" (USA).A moving story of two friends: a white bear cub Nanu and a little walrus Sila.Documentary – fiction film.
"Polar Bears" (Canada). Canadian documentary, a life story of the largest and most beautiful land predator.The crew spent whole year in the Canadian Arctic and captured the rare moments in the life of polar bears.
"The Golden Compass" (USA, UK). Fantasy film "The Golden Compass" depicts the adventures of a ridiculous girl LyraBelacquain the world, where witches rule over the skies of the North, and where polar bears are the bravest warriors.
"Alaska" (USA).During an emergency delivery in a storm in Alaska the pilot of private airlines makes an emergency landing. His 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son set out on adventure to find their farther with the help of a bear cub. Good movie, cute animal.
"Little Polar Bear" (animated TV series, Germany). Animation film tells the story of a white bear cub Lars,how he finds friends and how together they cheat poachers.
"Umka" (cartoon, Russia).A very famous story about the adventures of a polar bear cub Umka.
In Chukot language polar bear is proniunced as umk’y (umqə). That is where the name of the famouse cartoon character comes from! The story is about how a bear cub learns the world and slowly becomes to comprehend it.
White Bear has become one of the mascots of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The image of polar bear can be found on the boxes of confectionery "North" and on candy wraps of the favorite sweets from childhood "Bear in the North." Recently, on sale there is a choclate under the same name.
Not long ago a group of well-known journalists from BBC began to screen "The Polar Bear Family and Me" in Svalbard, Norway. They planned to monitor the predator in its natural habitat. However, the unexpected happened. The presenter Gordon Buchanan was trapped in a special perspex box in the show for 40 minutes as the animal tried to claw it open. It was later known that the crew deliberately provoked the situation, that was confirmed by video. The area’s vice-governor said that producer broke the rules – which state that the bears must not be deliberately approached or disturbed and imposed the fine of 50,000 krone – around $10,000.