Did you know this about the polar bear?
The polar bear is undoubtedly the animal most associated with the Arctic. With its magnificent body shape, white fur, and teddy bear-like appearance, it's no wonder that many people dream of seeing it in its natural habitat. The Svalbard archipelago and Barents sea is home to an estimated 3000 polar bears and it is no surprise that it has been nicknamed the King of the Arctic, as it is the largest of all bear species. The polar bear may look a bit clumsy and lethargic, but in reality, it is agile and fast, both in water and on land. Here are 12 facts you may not have known about the polar bear.
1) The polar bear is a very good swimmer. Its huge frames act as paddles in the water and allow it to swim up to 500 kilometers in the icy water.
2) The polar bear is fast. Just as the frames act as paddles in the water, they serve as snowshoes on land, allowing the polar bear to run at 40 kilometers per hour.
3) The white bear is actually black. Under its white fur, the polar bear's skin is completely black. This is to help it absorb the heat from the sun.
4) The polar bear has natural swimming goggles. It has a second transparent eyelid to protect its eyes when swimming.
5) The polar bear usually lives alone. This is except when there is no ice and it gets stuck on land and during the mating season. Females mate at the age of three and have 1-3 cubs. The cubs stay with their mother until they are two years old. During this time, they learn how to survive in the Arctic environment.
6) The polar bear is extremely strong. It can even pull a whale weighing over a ton onto the ice.
7) Polar bears must move slowly to avoid overheating. Its fur is very thick and warm and to cope with the cold winters and swimming, it also has a 10 cm thick layer of fat. In order not to get too hot, polar bears are often seen walking slowly on the ice.
8) Polar bears can go several months without food. They eat between April and July to make it through the ice-free period, which can last up to five months. They then live on their blubber.
9) Polar bears do not hibernate. Exceptions are new polar bear mothers who spend the winter in the den and give milk to their cubs. Males normally stay out all winter but may take shelter in a makeshift den in severe weather.
10) The polar bear is the only bear species that lives only on meat. It spends most of its time on the pack ice where it hunts for food.
11) A polar bear standing on its hind legs is bigger than a small elephant. It has a body length of 2–2.5 meters and can weigh up to 800 kilos. The lifespan of a polar bear is 20–25 years.
12) The polar bear is classified as a marine mammal. This is because it is dependent on water and sea ice.
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 50 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.