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Photo Essay: The Polar Bears of Baffin Island


Welcome to the kingdom of the ice bear.

In This Nunavut Photo Essay You Will Discover:

  • Polar Bears On Ice Floes
  • Mommas & Cubs
  • What Do Polar Bears Eat?
  • The Vast and Imposing Arctic
  • And More!

I crossed off a few items on my bucket list this summer. During two weeks in the high Arctic of Nunavut, Canada, I spotted my first-ever wild polar bear (also meaning I’ve now seen all three species of North American bear). Plus, I later saw a group of walruses bobbing around offshore of Devon Island—meaning I’ve officially spotted the Arctic Big Five.

(That’s caribou, muskox, polar bear, walrus and a species of Arctic whale—such as bowhead, beluga and narwhal… of which I’ve seen all three.)

I’m not a die-hard bucket-lister, though. I try to maintain presence of mind during these encounters; to not only see them, but feel them.

And I always make sure I spend most of the time looking not through a camera lens, but with my eyes alone.

(OK, maybe binoculars.)

I’ll always have the photos I snap. But I treasure the memory of it all—if I spend the whole time clicking pics through a telephoto, I start to only remember the photos.

And if I can’t close my eyes and picture these magnificent creatures—instead picturing the pictures—then I’ve lost it.

But… I also want to make sure I get some good photos too.

So here they are, the polar bears of Baffin Island, Nunavut.

I’m writing about the experience as a whole—the two-week expedition—for explore magazine. Plus, I’ve been busily sorting through my images and found a dozen to make a rough cut.

(I have hundreds more of the trip, Baffin Island, Devon Island, Beechey Island, the people I met, the ship, icebergs…)

These two bear encounters were the best. (We encountered polar bears five times.)

Both north of the Arctic Circle. One, far offshore in the open ocean of Baffin Bay. The other, at the mouth of Coutt’s Inlet, on the northeast coast of Baffin Island.



I call this one: “Family Portrait.”


Polar bears are cute—but the carcass of a harp seal reminds us of their true nature: apex predator.


But they are really cute.


We were 115 nautical miles off the coast of Baffin Island—actually in Greenlandic waters. This image illustrates the distance these bears travelled to feed. Ursus maritimus—quite the swimmers.




The Arctic is an unforgiving environment. This image captures the imposing region in which these bears thrive.


At home on an ice floe, about 25 nautical miles from shore.


This is a male bear—a large boar.


He saw us. And he didn’t like what he saw.


But he calmed down, once he got a sniff. We left shortly thereafter, careful not to stress the bear.


Snow bear; sun bear.


Ruler of the Ice Kingdom.

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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