The Polar Bears of Svalbard

The Polar Bears of Svalbard
Photo Credit: Jayanth Sharma

On International Polar Bear Day, we get up close and personal with the polar bears of Svalbard.

Jayanth Sharma
February 28 , 2022
03 Min Read

Photography has always been a part of my life. In a quest to capture the perfect shot, I managed to immortalise the beauty of the Arctic region via the Svalbard Polar Bear Photography Expedition. Polar bears have fascinated me since 2011, when I travelled to Churchill, a small town by the Hudson Bay in Canada. Not only are they the largest land carnivores on the planet, amazingly, they are marine mammals too.

My journey to Svalbard in Northern Europe made me realise what an amazing habitat and landscape it was for polar bears. Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, situated a few hundred miles from the North Pole, comprising glaciers, fjords, mountains and the surrounding sea ice. To photograph polar bears over the blue ice of Svalbard was something I had looked forward to for a long time. Along with 12 other photographers, we explored the region in a small ship, capturing polar bears and their surroundings mostly from the deck. We largely relied on satellite imagery to navigate through the region. My fellow photographers also used inflatable boats called zodiacs for a lower angle and to get closer to the wildlife. Apart from polar bears, the place is also an ideal habitat for Arctic terns, puffins and mammals like walruses and humpback whales.

Although the sea around Svalbard is frozen during the winter, the ice cracks in the brief summer months, allowing ships to navigate through the icy archipelago. As the sun never seems to set in this region, it is great for photography, with the midnight sun transforming the landscape into a visual delight. In my photo series of the expedition, the aim was to reflect my passion for the serene beauty of the wildlife in this region.

Svalbard is the most spectacular place to see the iconic polar bear
Svalbard is a fragile landscape, featuring islands surrounded by sea ice
A panorama of Longyearbyen town
A ship is the preferred mode of transport to get around the archipelago
Tufts of cloud in an azure sky loom over a solitary polar bear on drift ice
The frozen tundra that shelters polar bears
A remote terrain of glaciers
Intimate encounters with polar bears make for dramatic photographs
Inflatable boats called zodiacs are used to get closer to the wildlife
A walrus on ice
The region is rich in birdlife as well. Seen here is a puffin
A guillemot

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