As Ice Melts, Polar Bears Swim For Their Lives

Scientists are reporting that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is near its lowest level since they began measuring it in 1979. Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at The National Snow and Ice Data Center, painted a frightening picture of what’s happening in the Arctic due to global warming: “We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point. It’s tipping now. We’re seeing it happen now.” Scientists believe the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer within five to less than 10 years.

Sea ice is the primary habitat of polar bears, meaning it’s about as important to them as water is to fish. This is why reports of polar bears being spotted making dangerous, long-distance swims in an attempt to find sea ice or land are becoming more common. The New York Times reported, via AP, that nine polar bears were recently observed in one day swimming in open ocean waters.

The bears were 15 to 65 miles off the Alaska shore. Some were swimming north, apparently trying to reach the polar ice edge, which on that day was 400 miles away. Polar bears are powerful swimmers and have been recorded on swims of 100 miles, but the ordeal can leave them exhausted and susceptible to drowning.

No one knows whether those polar bears made it. [Source: The New York Times; Photo: National Geographic]