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    Posted July 28, 2012 by
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    The Ice Bears of Russia


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     konacraig traveled to Franz Joseph Land archipelago, which is a part of Russia in the Arctic circle. He traveled there on the Polar Icebreaker, which is a ship capable of breaking ice. 'The ships are occasionally used to take expeditions to the North Pole and other destinations were sea ice is a problem,' he says.

    He journey to the barren region of Franz Joseph Land, which he says is an area with few visitors. 'It is like an ice desert, with very little rain and lots of ice,' he says. The lack of travelers to area also means that the wildlife is not impacted by humans typically. 'It was an expedition of like-minded people who care about the environment and seek new adventure,' he says.

    While on the ship, he was able to see large glaciers floating out in the ocean, and ice fields as well. There were some islands that they passed by where viewers could see abandoned explorer bases. 'It was interesting to visit and imagine how people survived in this environment more than 150 years ago,' he says. During his trip he was able to photograph polar bears as well.

    'The first thought I had when I saw the bear was to grab my camera and capture the moment,' he says. 'They are massive and powerful creatures, capable of taking down any animal in its environment.' With the ice in the Polar Caps melting, he hopes that people will be able to have the opportunity to see the bears in the wild like he did. 'See the bears now because their numbers will be impacted in the future,' he says.

    The last photo in this set was featured as CNN's Travel Photo of the Day for September 5, 2012!
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    On July 16th a group of us boarded the Polar Icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn in the port city of Murmansk, Russia. Our goal was to travel to the Russian High Arctic in search of polar bears.

    Our plan was to travel to the polar ice sheet, take pictures of polar bears on the ice sheet and around the islands of Franz Joseph Land.

    Franz Joseph Land is an archipelago located in the far north of Russia. It is found in the Arctic Ocean north of Novaya Zemlya and east of Svalbard, and is administered by Arkhangelsk Oblast. Franz Josef Land consists of 191 ice-covered islands with a total area of 16,134 km2 (6,229 sq mi). It has no native inhabitants, but several settlements have been built by Russian settlers. They rely solely on walrus and seal meat.

    At latitudes between 80.0° and 81.9° north, it is the most northerly group of islands associated with Eurasia. The extreme northernmost point is Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island. The archipelago is only 900 to 1,110 km (560 to 690 miles) from the North Pole, and the northernmost islands are closer to the Pole than any other land except for Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

    The archipelago was possibly first discovered by the Norwegian sealers Nils Fredrik Rønnbeck and Aidijärvi aboard the schooner Spidsbergen in 1865 who, according to scarce reports, sailed eastward from Svalbard until they reached a new land, denoted Nordøst-Spitsbergen. It is not known if they went ashore, and the new islands were soon forgotten.

    Attached are photos of some of the polar bears we encountered on our expedition.
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