The Polar Bear Survey 2015 has started
After some hectic days in Longyearbyen, Svalbard with packing and testing of equipment the day was finally there when we could sail off with the Norwegian Polar Institute research vessel RV Lance towards the eastern and northern parts of the Archipelago.
The aim of this cruise is to assess the number of polar bears in the Svalbard and the Norwegian parts of Barents Sea area, and also to collect data on presence and densities of whales in the northern parts of the region.
We sailed off south around the southernmost point of Spitsbergen, Sørkapp, before turning northeast to Kong Karls Land, this legendary group of island which is known for all its polar bears and also for the polar bear research that has taken place there.
It is currently a nature reserve, but we have been granted permission to conduct our research there and during a long day with good weather conditions we were able to fly all our planned transects, along which all polar bears were counted, and also to capture and equip two adult female polar bears with satellite collars, instruments that give valuable information about how polar bears move and their use of the sea ice habitat.
Our journey then went further northwards to Kvitøya, an island which basically is a glacier in the middle of the ocean, with only a bit of dry land in each end.
After yet a number of helicopter transects we were ready to go towards the main challenge but also the main adventure of our cruise, the ice edge far north, currently situated well into the Polar Ocean. Here we will fly 100 nm flights deep into the sea ice, counting polar bears, we will extend out flight over open water to record whales, and the whale team on the ship will be sailing along the ice edge while recording whales.