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The World Of The Polar Bear - Norbert Rosing

The World of the Polar Bear

Review by Jack Foley

ONE of the most enduring images of the BBC’s “Planet Earth”: series was that of a Polar Bear swimming in search of food and ice.

The aerial shot, though breathtaking, was ultimately one of the saddest in the series especially when accompanied by the fact that such a search can often be futile.

But the fact remains that global warming is the biggest threat to the Polar Bear, a majestic creature of inescapable beauty that has come to symbolise the Arctic in more ways than one.

Al Gore, in his recent documentary An Inconvenient Truth, also included brief footage of a lone bear swimming in vain for ice which had melted due to the effects of global warming.

It is an image that everyone should feel duty bound to ensure doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for this magnificent creature – especially since the break-up of the ice regions ultimately spells disaster for humanity as a whole.

If any further proof were needed of the magnificence of the Polar Bear, then Norbert Rosing’s stunning book, The World Of The Polar Bear provides it.

The book marks the culmination of more than 20 years’ study and observation from one of the world’s leading natural history photographers.

It’s comprised of over 200 pages of photographs that capture the world of the Polar Bear as witnessed around the west coast of Hudson Bay throughout the four seasons.

Beginning in the spring, it chronicles the attempts of a mother bear to look after and protect her cubs and captures many intimate and playful moments between them, as well as the obstacles posed by life in such extreme conditions.

Summer, autumn and winter follow and, as the cubs mature, we’re treated to breathtaking shots of adult bears at play, as well as serving as both hunter and hunted.

One of the most remarkable images shows a mother and her twin cubs settling into some drifting ice after being chased by two male bears.

Another selection of photos features a bear prowling a walrus colony and the panic it creates among them. There’s no doubting the ferocity and danger posed by this seemingly gentle giant.

But the book is at its most enchanting – and rewarding – when capturing the bear at its most content and relaxed.

Early shots of a mother gracefully helping its little cub to scale a steep snowbank can’t fail to melt the heart, while a shot of another cub offering its mum a “give me five” is another enduring favourite.

Later on, a four-picture spread of a bear performing some morning exercises succeeds in raising a wry smile of appreciation, while another four-picture special involving two adults play fighting in some powder snow finds the creatures at their most powerful and striking.

Rosing’s lens isn’t just reserved for the bears, either. Throughout, he offers glimpses of the Arctic’s other inhabitants, from red foxes and walruses to muskoxen and – particularly memorably – a pod of beluga whales.

And there’s some breathtaking shots of the sky phenomena – most notably the Northern Lights – to provide a stunning backdrop to the bear’s existence.

The foreword, by National Geographic Magazine senior editor John A Echave, concludes: “Someone once said that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Norbert Rosing’s stunning book ensures that readers have 200 such moments. It is not to be missed by any fans of natural world photography or Polar Bears in general.

Most importantly, in its very final image, featuring a rear view of a mother and her two cubs staring out at a cold, unwelcoming ocean, it effectively captures the beauty that exists and the uncertainty surrounding the bears’ future. We all have a part to play in ensuring its wellbeing for future generations.