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In the Arctic
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

Get the facts behind the frame in this online-only gallery. Pick an image and see the photographer’s technical notes.

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Map of the Arctic

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Bear Beginnings: New Life on the Ice

Article and Photographs by Norbert Rosing

The Arctic’s most formidable predator has a tender side too.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

In spring, polar bear mothers in Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park emerge from dens with cubs three months old and ready to face the world. The sow has fasted for as long as eight months, but that doesn’t stop her young from demanding full access to her remaining reserves. If there are triplets, the most persistent stands to gain an extra meal, and it may eat at the expense of another. Females are protective of their cubs but tend to ignore family rivalry over food. In 11 years of photographing polar bears, I’ve only once seen the runt of triplets survive until autumn.

With the windchill pushing the temperature to minus 60°F (minus 51°C), I am reduced to warming equipment and frozen fingertips against the engine of my idling snowmobile, while a roll of film shatters like glass in my hands as I try to load it. Under these conditions the trick is to work carefully and slowly, though some great moments will pass unrecorded.

Sadly, all is not well in the bears’ realm. While park boundaries and hunting quotas have helped protect the animals from guns, new threats arise. Chemical pollutants now contaminate the food chain, and mining and offshore drilling could degrade bear habitat. Recent warming trends in the southernmost reaches of polar bear range have accelerated pack ice melting, cutting short the bears’ spring seal hunt. How they and other Arctic wildlife will fare under these changing conditions remains uncertain. For the moment I see only a noble survivor on the landscape, protecting her young from Arctic wind and other hazards of life on the ice. Knowing the unseen threats to her kind, I am fortunate to have had a glimpse of her world.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.

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Sights and Sounds
Follow a polar bear family across the ice while photographer Norbert Rosing narrates this multimedia slideshow.

Author/photographer Norbert Rosing describes the difficulty of finding and following polar bears in the bitter Arctic cold.

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

A polar bear is so well insulated from the cold that it is invisible when photographed with infrared film, which detects heat. Except for a spot in front of its mouth made by its warm breath, the bear gives off no detectable heat for the film to record.

Norbert Rosing
Log on to learn more about photographer Norbert Rosing, his books, and slide presentations. Then browse photos of naturescapes and polar bears in the wild.

Polar Bears Alive
Polar Bears Alive is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 by the late Dan Guravich, a renowned polar bear photographer. The organization protects polar bears and their environs through education and outreach programs, in addition to direct funding of research.

Canadian Wildlife Service Hinterland Who’s Who—Polar Bears
Want to know about the biology and behavior of Canada’s polar bears? Check out this site from the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Program for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna
The Program for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) was established in 1991 to conserve Arctic species and their habitats in the Arctic region.


Bruemmer, Fred. World of the Polar Bear. NorthWard Press, Inc. 1989.

Ovsyanikov, Nikita. Polar Bears: World Life Library. Voyageur Press, 1998.

Ovsyanikov, Nikita. Polar Bears: Living with the White Bear. Voyageur Press, 1996.

Rosing, Norbert. The World of the Polar Bear. Firefly Books, 1996.

Stirling, Ian. Polar Bears. University of Michigan Press, 1998.


The Great White Bear. National Geographic Videos, 1999.

Eliot, John L. “Polar Bears, Stalkers of the High Arctic,” National Geographic, Jan. 1998, 52-71.

Animal Holiday. National Geographic Videos, 1997.

Arctic Kingdom: Life at the Edge. National Geographic Videos, 1995.

“First Glimpse of a Big, Icy World,” National Geographic World, Dec. 1985, 16-17.

Penguins and Polar Bears: Animals of the Ice and Snow. National Geographic Books, 1985.

Polar Bear Alert. National Geographic Videos, 1982.

“Polar Bears: Furry Giants of the Far North,” National Geographic World, Feb. 1978, 6-9.

Larsen, Thor. “Polar Bear: Lonely Nomad of the North,” National Geographic, Apr. 1971, 574-590.


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