Here in the Northern Hemisphere - as a rule - the further north you go the colder it gets. If you travel far enough north you will find yourself within the Arctic Circle, standing amidst the frozen tundra, a landscape so cold and harsh it can seem barren of many things we associate with life - such as trees! Beyond the tundra is but ice, a whole other world made solely of ice, to the extent where you would think it completely bereft of any life.
But as we know, there is plenty of life within the Artic Circle. In fact you will even find some mammals resembling their more southerly counterparts - albeit adorned with luxurious white fur coats: the brilliant white arctic hair for example, the stunning arctic fox, and then there is of course the great arctic bear, the largest land carnivore in the world, The Polar Bear. Amazingly you will also find us humans up there too, and as you can imagine, they all have great respect for the apex hunter of which they share the land / ice with.
The actual scientific name for the polar bear is Ursa Maritimus, which in Latin translates as Sea Bear. This title's very appropriate considering the sea provides pretty much every meal for the polar bear, with seals predominantly being on the menu. Knowing this, Norsemen decided to name the bear The Seal’s Dread - a.k.a. The Whale’s Bane, and (my personal fave) The Rider of Icebergs - you got to love a dramatic norse title. And the Sami people, in fear of offending the white beast, named the bear God’s Dog.
And there is of course the Inuit people, who - like the polar bear themselves - can be found right across the arctic region, from Alaska to Greenland. They know the bear as Nanuk, an Animal Worthy of Great Respect, and Philoqahiak, The Ever Wandering One. They believed Nanuk (or Nanook) to be almost man, and would worship the spirit of Nanuk when embarking on a bear hunt, as he/she was believed to decide whether or not the hunt would be successful. As you can imagine, going on a bear hunt was a very serious affair, after all you might not return, so I don’t blame them for being a tad superstitious!
Today, because of the depleting ice sheets, the bear is losing its own hunting ground, and so this Rider of Icebergs is at the forefront of the climate change debate, and due to the fact that more and more bears are frequently wandering south into human settlements in search of food, this will only continue; considering that a fully grown male polar bear weighs the same as 10 Inuits, such instances will not go unnoticed!
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