In preparation for the Arctic tour of Svalbard on the Arctic Sunrise, it will surely be fascinating to visit the global seed vault, the research bases, and walk around glaciers.

But the ultimate goal has to be to spot a walrus, or even better, a polar bear in its natural habitat. I know from previous encounters with sea lions back in New Zealand that it would probably be best to stay far away from a walrus. Imagine how far away you need to stay from a polar bear!

The Greenpeace crew is so well prepared for a possible run in, that they dedicated a whole chapter of a manual to ‘Safety protocol for Greenpeace operations in areas with polar bears.’ We are also all to engage in polar bear safety training.

We are told that this training is “as important as a fire-or a man overboard drill; it may save not only your life, but also the life of a polar bear!”.

Here are two golden rules on dealing with polar bears:

-          NEVER approach a polar bear

-          Take the trouble to understand basic polar bear behaviour

We are also told that: “every year there are accidents with polar bears, some resulting in human fatalities. These bears have often missed the ice retreating in spring or become victim of a general lack of ice in certain years. The best way of avoiding an incident with a polar bear is to be well prepared, and to be armed with the behavioural knowledge and the means to scare off a bear, when it becomes necessary”.

I just can’t wait to learn how to scare a polar bear.  :)


Chris Burman is a Greenpeace New Zealand street fundraiser. He has personally gathered 7,595 signatures for Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic petition ( That made him a world-beater in Greenpeace street campaigning circles, and won him a trip to the Arctic Circle, aboard the Greenpeace vessel the Arctic Sunrise. This is the second of a series of blogs on his experience. Each is a few days old, because of the delays in getting an internet service aboard the ship  - the region is incredibly remote, after all.