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On the way to Franz Josef Land

Ice floes are becoming increasingly evident on the way to this new archipelago – and, with them, so are various Arctic animals. In the last 24 hours alone observers have recorded a bearded seal, walruses, bowhead whales and a polar bear. And what hasn’t that bear been called! Oshkyu, Nanuk, Umka. For the local indigenous Nenets people, the polar bear personifies the mighty forces of nature; and for the Chukchi people, this is the character most often reproduced in their decorative arts, carved on bone or walrus tusks. You often find polar bears on countries’ coins and stamps, on product packaging, and on sportswear: but actually in nature – not that often. The polar bear is listed in the International Red Book (the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM) and in Russia’s own Red Book.