The polar bear is the king of the Arctic, known for its white fur and jet black nose. We run cruises up into the Arctic Circle where you can spot these majestic beasts – but before you go, here are a few interesting facts!
1. The longest recorded swim without stopping a polar bear has ever made is 685km over nine days straight! During the swim, the female bear lost 22 percent of her body weight. They have large paws that are ideal for paddling and their body fat helps them to stay afloat and acts as insulation in the freezing waters.
2. The Latin name for polar bears is ‘ursus maritimus‘ which means maritime bear. In Inuit mythology, the polar bear is called Pihoqahiak, the “ever-wandering one”.
3. Translations of the Arctic names for polar bear are quite varied but all impressive, including Lord of the Arctic and Old Man in the Fur Cloak.
4. Female polar bears usually give birth to two cubs, although it can be up to four. The cubs stay with her for more than two years until they can hunt and survive on their own. Females receive no help from their solitary male mates.
5. The average adult female weighs about 260 kilograms. When pregnant, they can be as heavy as almost 500 kilograms. They are usually 1.8 to 2 metres in length. A fully grown male weighs around 450 kilograms and are about 2.5 metres tall.
6. The average lifespan of a bear in the wild is 15 to 30 years. The world’s oldest ever polar bear in captivity, Debby, lived for 43 years and ten months.
7. Polar bears are extremely threatened by global warming and climate change with their icy habitat literally melting beneath their paws. Studies have predicted that the bears will need to swim longer distances in the future due to the shrinking ice caps.
8. Seals make up most of a polar bear’s diet.
9. They are the world’s largest land predator and biggest member of the bear family.
10. Their blubber gets up to 10 centimetres thick. Under their fur polar bears have black skin to better soak in the sun’s warmth. Fur even grows on the bottom of their claws to protect them against cold surfaces and for traction when walking across slippery ice.
11. The fur of a polar bear is not actually white but is transparent, lacking in pigment completely. It appears white because of light being refracted from the clear strands.
12. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend the vast majority of their time at sea. Without sea ice, polar bears could not survive. Two of the Arctic’s most important habitats for them are the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
13. Polar bears are the only type of bear considered a marine animal.
14. While polar bears look fluffy and cuddly, they are predators that rarely fear humans, which makes them dangerous. In Svalbard, you are required to carry a firearm for protection when leaving any settlements.
15. These arctic kings have no natural enemies or predators, although they have been hunted by the Arctic’s indigenous people for centuries.