The name “Arctic” comes from the Greek word Arktikos, meaning the Country of the Great Bear.
Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago, and the surrounding pack ice, are among the most important habitats for polar bears in the High Arctic. Around 3,000 polar bears roam the polar ice cap between the Svalbard coast and the Siberian islands.
Spitsbergen is set within the Arctic “Ring of Life”- the name biologists give the richly productive circle of coastal waters around the Arctic islands and archipelagoes where wind, currents and warm upwellings break the ice apart and allow seawater and nutrients to meet in the pouring light in the Arctic summer.
This Ring of Life around the edges of the polar ice cap is where the walruses and most other Arctic seals find their food, breed and give birth, and with them, the polar bear.
One of the many beautiful indigenous names for the polar bear is “The one who always wanders.” The Arctic sea ice is their hunting platform, and without it, polar bears cannot hunt successfully for seals. The bears are also powerful swimmers and they have been known to cross eighty or even a hundred miles of open water to reach firm ice.
The Arctic sea ice is also the habitat and home for the marvellous variety of other Arctic wildlife.