Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Day 28. Polar Bear... Tracks
sunny, steady wind -25C
30 March 2010 | Arctic Ocean
On my weekly Iridium Satellite phone call with Elisabeth Harincar at Webexpeditions.net headquarters last night, she instructed me, 'see a polar bear. People like polar bear stories.' I kindly replied I would prefer not and it wasn't like polar bears are waiting behind every corner to pose for pictures.

While I think polar bears are beautiful and amazing animals, I would prefer NOT to see one. To a hungry polar bear potentially stalking us while we sleep, we're the all beef patties and our Sierra Designs tent is a Big Mac wrapper. Don't laugh, I've had more than enough close calls with bears. In 2005, one jumped on our tent vestibule while we were sleeping, another was stalking me one evening while I was sorting gear in my sled. In 2006, we had a bear come into camp the morning we reached the pole.

I hung up the phone and didn't think another thing about it.

Within five minutes of starting the day, we came to a newly frozen lead and along the southern edge, was a meandering line of really big polar bear tracks. (I am always impressed by the size of their feet.) They were relatively new - within the last couple days and heading east in no particular hurry.

'Where are you going Mr. Bear?' I wondered. 'Please don't mind us we're only passing through.'

What is it about polar bears that captures people's imagination? For me, I am impressed by their ability to live in such a harsh environment. For us to cross a lead requires over an hour of catamaraning sleds, putting on dry suits, breaking ice... A polar bear simply slides and is across in a matter of minutes. They are perfectly adapted for life on the ice, which is why they are now listed as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act If sea ice melts according to scientists' predictions, polar bears will be global warming's first victim.

Sobering thoughts for day 28 - the end of our fourth week on the trail. We've come a long way (passed the 86th parallel today) but we still have 230 miles left assuming we walk in a straight line (we don't) and we won't loose mileage due to southerly drift (we will).

Predictability. That word seemed to kick around in my head for quite some time today. Partly because I continue to be surprised at the course each day takes - the type of ice and obstacles, open water, condition of the snow and much more. There are few givens on any day here. Today was no exception. At one point, we were lowering our sleds down an eight foot wall of ice.

'We were slowed down by some pretty big pressure ridges,' commented Darcy at the end of the day. 'Several times we had to unhook from our sleds an heave sleds through section of pressure choked with five foot diameter ice blocks.'

In my old life, I used tried to slough off the routine and regularness of every day living. Now so many years later, with uncertainty laying ambush at every step, a little normalcy sounds pretty nice after all. I guess tomorrow I should spend some time on irony.

Image: The Polar Bear tracks we saw today.

The Save the Poles expedition is sponsored by Bing with major support from the University of Plymouth, Terramar, Seventh Generation, Goal0, Atlas, Sierra Designs and Optic Nerve.

Remember, it's cool to be cold. Save the Poles. Save the planet.

For more information, please visit www.ericlarsenexplore.com

For information about guided Antarctic expeditions, please visit http://www.antarctic-logistics.com/

For media inquiries, please contact lora@screamagency.com

For technical inquires, please contact webexpeditions.net
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