Polar Bear Blog

The Ghost of the Willow

The Ghost in the Willow. Polar bear at Nanuk.
The Ghost of the Willow.

Guest post by Geetika Jain with photos by Ian Johnson

We’re tearing around the vast flats that surround Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in the ‘Rhino’, now crunching the iced brown Cappuccino rivers, with misty ice swirling like steam. In the distance, a white form moves ponderously, and we stop to take a look. It’s my first sighting of a polar bear from the ground, and it might just be the most beautiful one, the alabaster bear staring back, with brown and white striations of trees, snow flats and willows, a veil of gently falling snow between us.

First sighting of a polar bear at ground level.
First sighting of a polar bear at ground level.

Closer to the lodge, we crunch over to a bear that’s bedded down, but he sees us and is in a mood to play. He slowly turns on his back, his every motion endears us and we lavish vast gigabytes of film on this rolling, contorting bear who looks like he’s putting on an imaginary pair of pants and a shirt. He stands up and begins to move towards us, but is surprisingly arrested by Derrick’s strong words.

This polar bear wanted to play!
This polar bear wanted to play!

Over the days, we wonder how those moose can run through the willow bearing enormous antlers that weigh 30 pounds each, how the diminutive ptarmigans, whiskey-jacks and spruce doves stay warm in the excruciating cold, and how this anomaly of being face to face with the formidable white giants of the north exists in the first place.

Moose in the willows at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.
Moose in the willows.

Last night a gentle knock summoned us to see the Aurora, and we viewed several of them over an hour, emblazoned across the night sky, dominating the clouds and the bright moon. There were broad brushstrokes and swirly characters like Inuit script, a double headed dragon came right at me in green and purple, but its those unusual red hues we especially celebrated at breakfast.

Northern lights over Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.
“A double headed dragon came right at me in green and purple…”

The wild oats were interrupted this morning, spoons set down, as a bear shimmied up to the lodge named after him.

Who is that in the background? L to R Geetika Jain, Tara Lal, Polar Bear, Anjali Singh.
Who is that in the background? L to R Geetika Jain, Tara Lal, Polar Bear, Anjali Singh.

We pressed close to the windows, and the fence later, enjoying a proximity to polar bears unheard of in any other part of the world.

Close. Unlike anywhere else in the world.
This close. Unlike anywhere else in the world.

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