Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Monday, September 21, 2015

Polar Bear Adventure Finally Continues Two Weeks Later!

Our first attempt to go see the polar bears during Labor Day weekend ended with the trip being cancelled due to dense fog in Kaktovik. In Alaska charter planes must have one mile of visibility to land. We got to the small plane airport at 7 am on Sunday morning, Sept. 6th, and sat and waited for weather updates until noon. The fog still had not lifted then, so we were able to reschedule for the next day. We returned on Monday morning, September 7th, to the small plane airport and sat until noon again. Alas, the fog would not lift that morning either. After returning home to Anchorage, we decided to give it one more shot. Luckily, we were able to get in on September 20th, which is right at the end of the viewing season. There is only about a six week time frame where you can fly up to see the bears. The bears come in near the village for these few weeks and then go out when the pack ice freezes. After flying back to Fairbanks on Saturday, we arrived back bright and early at the small plane airport Sunday morning. We both had a good feeling about the day and there were no glitches in our plans as the plane took off around 8 am. The first portion of the flight is a two and a half hour flight to Deadhorse. On the way up, we flew over the Brooks Range and millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness.
 These mountains just seem to stretch forever!
 If anyone in our small group was sleepy when we landed, they were quickly jolted awake by the high winds and low 20 temps at Prudhoe Bay when we stepped foot off the plane.
Our plane had to refuel at this work camp which actually has thousands of oil industry employees working here. We boarded the plane again and made our way along the coast of the Arctic Ocean on a 45 minute flight to the village of Kaktovik. It was quite spectacular! It is almost beyond belief that this body of water could freeze. We arrived around noon and as we landed and rolled down the runway, we were greeted with the sight of a sow polar bear and her cub swimming right off shore! We were really vigilant as we swapped our gear from the plane to a van while trying not to freeze in the meantime. We then headed over to the Marsh Creek Inn to eat lunch. By one p.m., we were on the water in this little boat and off to see bears.
 We soon learned that our Norwegian captain, Kateel, is also a dog musher and has run the Iditarod four times already. He will run in this great race in 2016. He has great knowledge of the polar bears and within five minutes had located some bears resting on the beach.
We anchored just a few feet off shore and started snapping away.
 One member of our group, John, counted twenty-six polar bears in this one area!

 The bears looked quite healthy, white, shaggy, and beautiful.
Majestic may be an overused word, but these creatures truly are majestic.
As we have so much more to tell and many more pictures to share, we will post again in a few days.

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