Changing Planet

Polar Bears on Thin Ice

Skating on thin ice.  That could be the story line for polar bears this past summer in the Norwegian Arctic.  When I was up there in the waters around Svalbard, Norway it seemed as if the ice was disappearing faster than in previous years.  Without ice the polar bears, don’t have a platform from which to hunt seals, the main source of fat rich food.

We did get lucky and see a good number of these, “ice bears”, from the deck of our ship, Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer.  Part of the reason for our good fortune may have been due to bad news for the bears in that there were more open seas and less ice on which they could roam or hide out.  Sometimes we would spot the bears off in the distance and slowly move the ship towards them, and other times the bears would spot us and come in for a closer look.

Lindblad naturalist Steve MacLean talked with me for my radio show National Geographic Weekend about some of the problems facing polar bears and other arctic creatures due to a warming planet.  Here’s part of that interview as well as video of some of the polar bear action we got to enjoy.


Boyd Matson, in his work for National Geographic, has been bitten, scratched, or pooped on, and occasionally kissed by most of the creatures found at your local zoo. What he refers to as his job, others might describe as a career spent attending summer camp for adults. Currently Matson is the host of the weekly radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.” Conducting interviews from the studio and from the field, Matson connects with some of the greatest explorers and adventurers on the planet to transport listeners to the far corners of the world and to the hidden corners of their own backyards. Matson also writes about his experiencs in his monthly column, “Boyd Matson Unbound” for National Geographic Traveler magazine, produces videos for National, and serves as a spokesperson for the National Geographic Society.
  • Shaleen

    We need to act fast to save them..

  • Clayton Conger

    Since there are plenty of seals in Antarctica, and since they are plentiful inshore because they prey on penguin, wouldn’t Antarctica be an appropriate environment for polar bears?

  • Sue McColl

    Another very timely post. We are ignoring the warning signs from our wildlife. Lets spread the word to try and save these amazing, beautiful bears! Can they adapt soon enough to hunt on land? Great video!

  • Kevin Graham

    Polar bears could not survive in Antarctica simply because they migrate south in the spring and summer. This is where and when polar bears procreate and give birth in the winter months in the north. There is no solution to their plight as species but to call off the ice-breakers and at the very least extend the time they have left.

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