Nanuk’s mother’s thoughts were of an age long ago, an age when she was young. She had hunted in the ice shelf, waiting, so still, so patiently, listening for movement. There was a sudden ripple in the water pool, left by a seal to come up for breath. She leapt on a seal snout, which was just beginning to poke out of the breathing hole, before it got her scent. It was exciting, exhilarating, she felt good. The air and the water were cold, clean, refreshing; it was good to be alive.
She forgot about Nanuk for a moment and drifted deep, so deep, into her thoughts, her memories. Then the breathing stopped as Nanuk’s mother slowly gave up her fight, her will to live. Her spirit deserted her tired, hungry, worn out body.
She could have eaten the day before, Nanuk had. He had climbed the sharp rocks and found petrel eggs by the score. His mother was just too weak, too ravaged by the last few months of vain unrewarding hunting, of feeding Nanuk her milk, her last reserves of energy.
Nanuk nudged her lifeless body and he felt that feeling again, it overwhelmed him. It was a feeling of loneliness, of no going back, of foreboding. He sat there for a long time, then nudging her body for the last time, as if saying goodbye, he wandered off into an unknown future, a world changed forever.
Nanuk is a bear. He belongs to the genus Ursus Maritimus, the Sea Bear, commonly known as the Polar Bear, the largest terrestrial carnivore on the planet.
Historically, Polar Bears were found in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. Ursus Maritimus was uniquely adapted to survival in the Arctic. It was the world’s largest land predator, feeding mainly on seals. Polar bears used the sea ice that was present in the Arctic regions as a floating platform to catch prey and they travelled across it on their way to their dens. Polar bears used the sea ice for all their behavioural cycles from hunting, to mating, to building dens.
While it has been known for some time that the Polar Bear was in trouble, discoveries some 75 years ago showed that Arctic ice - the polar bear’s primary habitat - was melting much faster than scientists had believed. The world’s largest terrestrial carnivores, polar bears, relied on sea ice to live, to survive; it was their natural habitat.
About 75 years ago there were about 15,000 Polar Bears in Northern Canada, accounting for about two-thirds of the world’s total population. As global warming continued unchecked, some remnant populations of polar bears manage to hang on in the high Canadian archipelago, some on more permanent polar ice at very high latitudes - but the road to extinction was inevitable.
You didn’t have to be a polar scientist to see that if you took away all the sea ice, you wouldn't have polar bears any more!
The populations in southern limits such as Hudson Bay died out first, then the death toll escalated dramatically as the ice receded, then disappeared. Polar Bears were being found drowned at first - no sea ice! Too far to swim to the next ice shelf! As the ice shelves receded even further, they were being found starved, dying in their hundreds.
The chain, the circle of life that had held in harmony all living things on planet Earth, had been broken, broken by another species of the planet. It had been broken by a vain, self-pleasing, self-gratifying, conceited species called Homo erectus. This species thought it had the measure of all things, but it was only the measurer, and what it measured was fast shrinking.
Scientists believed that the Polar Bear evolved about 200,000 years ago from Brown Bear ancestors. The bears are superbly adapted for survival in the far north.....
Nanuk felt very lonely. He nudged his mother as she lay there, her faint, shallow breathing strained with each heave of her chest. Close by on the hard dry rocks, lay several rotten carcasses, the remnants of ringed seals, festering with maggots. Nanuk watched the carcasses as newly hatched flies buzzed and glistened above them in the warm noonday sun.
There were a lot of seals like this, all along the rocky barren shore, bloated, stinking carcasses, inedible to any other life form. Poisoned by sea cod, which in turn were poisoned by krill, which in turn were poisoned by foul-smelling poisoned algae.