by Radiance Calmer, a CIRES postdoctoral researcher
How do you picture a polar bear guard?
A few months ago, I would have answered with stereotypes of the Arctic explorers from the past centuries: men, aged by the harsh weather conditions, long beard and disheveled hair, gruff personalities, never more than two words pronounced in a conversation, with an acute understanding of the Arctic conditions and the polar bears.
Lucky for us, our logistic team who does not only take care of polar bear guarding, is very far from this old portrait from the 19th century! As scientists, we all have very specific tasks to fulfill with more or less interactions with the other scientific teams. However, we are all interacting with the logistic team. They are our main bear guards. We are seeing them every day on the ice, we are discussing with them over the radio on the bridge to coordinate our activities. We rely on them not only to handle any polar bear situation, but also for so many logistic components of our daily life, i.e. building wooden bridges over the melt ponds to access our sites, dealing with storage and working space, planning crane operations, etc. They are the middle cog; the expedition wouldn’t work without them. They are experienced with the Polar regions, they are mountain and kayak guides, they have been in Greenland, Svalbard, Antarctica… But, far from the stereotype of the past Arctic explorers, they are young, beautiful or handsome, smiling and funny, patient and attentive.
Listening to their stories about the Arctic is also a way for me to learn about this region from a different view than our scientific objectives. I’m very thankful for their support and their skills they bring to the MOSAiC expedition.