A polar bear on the island of Prins Heinrich-øya. ©Gregory Tran, AWIPEV Research Base.
As part of the International Polar Bear Day, we have interviewed Lucas B., employee of the French Polar Institute Paul-Émile-Victor (IPEV) in Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard) since June 2020.
Lucas is a mechanic-logistician from IPEV. He is working on the French-German Arctic Research Base AWIPEV. During the summer, Lucas regularly saw polar bears around the base. From the buildings he has a clear view of the fjord and the island of Prins Heinrich-øya located 400m from the shore. This island, which is included in the Kongsfjorden bird sanctuary, is particularly frequented by polar bears: they come to feed on birds’ eggs and hunt seals which bask on the sandbank.
Lucas and his colleagues saw once a polar bear feeding on a seal on the beach, another one swimming between the island and the beach. A female and her two young were even seen on the shore one day, on February 2020.
The polar bear is very curious. Sometimes, one of them may approach the village of Ny-Ålesund by curiosity, or to find food. The employees must then stay in the buildings and contact the Watchman, who use a distress gun to keep the polar bear away.
In winter, there are no birds on the island and polar bears migrate further north on the archipelago. Lucas still saw two of them this winter.
We thank Lucas for sharing his experience and we wish him good luck to pursue his mission on the station. We also thank Gregory for these nice pictures.