Polar bear on a walrus

By |Published On: July 22, 2023|Categories: Europe, Svalbard|610 words|2 Comments|

Well, while all sorts of historical trash was lying around at the western end of the bay, something far more gripping was happening at the eastern end. Yep, perched atop a very dead walrus at that end of the bay was the aforementioned, very alive, polar bear.


This was one very smug Ursid. The walrus was huge, swollen, red and blotchy, what a gourmet diner’s dream come true! But it was a frustrating dream come true. Walruses, and all that delicious blubber and meat that they are comprised of, are enclosed in one particularly tough hide.

Walrus dreaming.


Our polar bear was having the very devil of a time trying to get inside. It had made good progress on getting into the softer parts of the head already but was really struggling with getting into the main course, the body. It tried raking the skin with its claws trying to shred its way inside. It tried tearing a hole with its teeth. It tried severing a flipper by gnawing through it. Nothing seemed to work.

How to get into this bloody thing??



This is one tough walrus…



Trying to sever a flipper…

The bear tried gouging the torso from the side. It pulled at a flipper in multiple attempts to rip it from the body. It tried to access the body through the torn neck.

Trying to rip apart the head….

It climbed on top of the walrus and literally bounced up and down like some kid on a trampoline, perhaps hoping that the swollen body would explode, perhaps pushing some of the blubber out of the torn neck.


Clearly it was having some success as every now and again it would retire to a rock nearby to chew and ponder. Indeed, it seemed sufficiently satisfied with its efforts that at intervals it would wander off to a nearby rock or snow patch to have a bit of a kip.

I’ve had enough for now…



Most interesting for us was that on each of the three mornings we were at Virgohamna, the bear would go off for a swim.

Going for its daily swim.



Daily swimming performance by our polar bear.

This wasn’t just a quick dip but a multi-hour perambulation around in the bay and out into the channel between Danskøya and Amsterdamøya. It would bob along, duck-dive, do underwater somersaults, sneak up on the guillemots, roll around with just its hind paws and nose above water, for all intents and purposes looking like it was having a thoroughly relaxed and pleasant time. It was pretty clear why these animals are classified as sea mammals along with whales, dolphins and seals!

Hmmm, close enough.

I said…close enough!


Said sea mammal was also very curious about the boats in the anchorage, including the dinghies, and swam towards them and up to them.

So again, one morning, we made a polar-bear-related radio call, this time to our Dutch neighbours: ‘Saraban’de, Saraban’de, this is Yuma. The polar bear is right behind your boat!’. Similar calls were made by other boats to their neighbours during the days we were in Virgohamna. Luckily for most of the other boats, they had a high transom on the back making it difficult (though not impossible) for a polar bear to climb onboard.

Now, why did we have a swimming platform on our boat again…??


We, on the other hand, had a few moments where we wondered about the wisdom of having a swimming platform at the back… The polar bear came close enough that we got all our noise-making equipment out in the cockpit again, but luckily, we never had to use it to scare it away. Of course, we have no idea how close it got while we were asleep in bed…

More walrus dreaming.


  1. Caro Imming August 18, 2023 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Spannend! Ik zie geen foto’s

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Virgohamna “…a desolate, dismal place…”