The breathtaking moment a 7ft polar bear shakes this cameraman’s world.
“Without a doubt she wanted me for lunch,” said wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan who was out in Svalbard in 2013 filming The Polar Bear Family and Me series for the BBC, when he had this heart-stopping encounter. Buchanan was filming from inside the perspex and metal hide, dubbed “The Icecube”, when the inquisitive female moved away from the seal hole the team were set to film, following her nose towards something a little more human.
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Buchanan on his experience: “A lot of people think that carnivores are intrinsically dangerous but most aren’t – there’s minimal risk and attacks are the exception. But polar bears are different, without a doubt she wanted me for lunch. She was so persistent, looking for a weak spot for almost 45 minutes. I was terrified and you could hear my heartbeat on the mic. It really was a sensational moment and a worrying situation.”
Be prepared for some adrenaline to kick in:
Buchanan remains impressively calm as the 7ft bear systematically tests every inch of the hide, looking for weaknesses. Considering polar bears are able to smell prey up to a kilometre away, this sow certainly knew what she was after. Although the pod was pretty much ‘bomb-proof’, but there is a risk it could get brittle when cold, and a polar bear weighing up to 300kg may have had a chance.
With 3,000 polar bears in Svalbard – where the bear population outweighs the human – there is a considerable strain on the limited food resources in the area. Bears in the region usually prey on bearded, ringed and harp seals, as well as scavenging small mammals, birds and even vegetation. Hunting uses up valuable calories in the freezing Norwegian archipelago, so all animals must expend their energy very carefully. Luckily for Buchanan, this bear decided to head elsewhere in search of sustenance, leaving the cameraman rather shaken but alive.