Ice Bear

Hidden Compass, Summer 2018
Notable Mention, Best American Travel Writing 2019
Solas Award for Best Travel Writing 2019

A polar bear in Svalbard with blood on its face after feeding.
A sated polar bear in Svalbard looks across the ice. ©Sivani Babu

There were flies in its fur — not many, just enough to remind me that even up here in this harsh environment, nature cleans up after itself. I got on my knees and looked closely at the bear. It was young. Not a cub, but not fully grown either. Even in June, cool temperatures meant that decay was slow to set in. Still, the bear’s fur was patchy in some spots, its eyes gone — likely taken by scavenging birds.

I moved around to get a better look at its enormous paws, claws still intact, and then came back to its head. Laying down on my stomach, I got face to face with the bear.

“It is not a happy thing, but it is part of the story,” said Ole Jørgen Liodden, our rifle-toting Norwegian guide, photographer, and polar bear researcher.

This was certainly part of the story, but what exactly was the story?

Read the rest of the story and see the images here.

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As a photographer, journalist, and explorer with strong academic roots, I tell detail-rich stories grounded in research that build connections to the past, the future, and the planet.
As an editor and the co-founder of Hidden Compass, I help others navigate a similar path.

...and that is the uncomfortable reality of nature: that it is indescribable beauty and arbitrary destruction.

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