There are various times throughout the year when I make a conscious decision to unplug from the world and, instead, reconnect with myself and my natural surroundings. Ultimately, while I do feel balanced, once I endeavor to rejoin the greater world again, I also realize that I missed some interesting news stories along the way. One such story occurred last summer while I was in Greece. The story was about a traveler’s touching moment with a polar bear who was trying to push away a cruise ship from its Arctic homeland.
Was the polar bear upset at a perceived intrusion? Was this captured moment emblematic of the balance that should be struck when observing wildlife in their natural habitat? I had to find out what the photographer sensed and felt.
The photo was taken by Christopher Westwood, who owns his own travel company in the UK and who graciously agreed to provide me his thoughts about the experience and how it may have reinforced his view of sustainable travel:
The encounter with the polar bears taught us a lot…I don’t think I fully appreciated the remoteness of the habitat that these bears live in. They are very elusive and difficult to find, which lends to the fact that they blend into their environment perfectly and are fully suited to their surroundings.
The most amazing thing about the encounter was how the bear cub came right up to the ship I presumed that the bears would have been terrified at something so large in their territory but on the contrary the cub behaved as if he were a kitten and came up to what was probably his first ever sighting of a human being and had no fear.
We found out on board that bears live on fast ice (which is sea ice that is “fastened” to the coastline), and rarely would spend time on land. This was (initially) a surprise to me. Then again, it (did) make sense because the fast ice is the best position for them to remain on the grounds of hunting their prey.
The whole experience I believe was positive. I returned to the UK and spoke to everyone I (knew) about the encounter and how a polar bear looked me in the eye for 10 seconds as I took a picture directly over his head.
…I believe that viewing animals in their wildlife – if done correctly and sustainably – allows a person to appreciate that it isn’t just human beings that roam this planet. It inspires people to do something about the changing world in which we reside and maybe make a change for the better to improve the plight of the polar bear.
We need to share our wonderful world with the other creatures that are upon it! Traveling to an area that human beings do not live in easily only makes you realise that we share this planet and need to change our behaviour so that we do not put animals and nature at risk.
Have you been to the Arctic? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this photo.
Photo Courtesy of Christopher Westwood