This emaciated polar bear swam underwater for an unusually long time to try to catch a bearded seal.

This emaciated polar bear swam underwater for an unusually long time to try to catch a bearded seal.
Photo Credit: Rinie van Meurs

Guide sees record-long polar bear dive

A guide in Norway’s Svalbard Islands saw an emaciated polar bear stay underwater for a very long time to stalk a bearded seal. Rinie van Meurs knew it was highly unusual and sent two videos of the event to Canadian polar bear researcher Ian Stirling. After careful analysis, the two wrote a paper called “Longest Recorded Underwater Dive by a Polar Bear” published in Polar Biology.

In one video, the bear is seen swimming in open water. Normally, it would sneak up behind the seal using ice for cover. But it this case it didn’t have the opportunity. Instead, the bear went underwater and swam toward the first of three bearded seals on ice some distance apart from each other.

After more than three minutes underwater, the polar bear shot out of the water and tried to grab the seal’s flipper.
After more than three minutes underwater, the polar bear shot out of the water and tried to grab the seal’s flipper. © Petrina Steains

‘Such an unusual observation’

One seal quickly dove into the water, where, being faster than the bear, it could escape. Instead of coming up to look around, the bear stayed underwater for a total of three minutes and ten seconds, then burst out of the water and tried to grab a second seal by the flipper. The seal got away.

“It is such an unusual observation,” says biologist Ian Stirling of the University of Alberta. “That said, it’s probably a relatively common sort of event that the bears dive for these long periods of time. This is very likely close to the maximum for a polar bear to be under water, although there’s no way of knowing that.”


Long dives may be linked to climate change

Van Meurs is concerned that the record-breaking dive may have to do with the melting ice in arctic regions. Polar bears need to use ice to catch their prey, either by stalking it from the ice, or by leaping onto ice where it may be resting.

In this case, Van Meurs says the bear was “very, very skinny” and may have been pushing the limits of its diving capabilities to try to survive. He thinks the long dive indicates bears are trying to adapt to the realities of climate change, and they may be losing.

‘Big changes in the Arctic’

“We’ve seen some very big changes in the Arctic,” says Stirling. “The amount of ice that remains in the polar basin in the period that it at its minimum—which  is about the end of the summer, early September or so—has declined  more than 50 per cent in the last 30 years. That’s huge.

“We know that these bears are doing much longer independent swims from place to place. The longest recorded was 11 days at sea swimming.

“So we know that these bears are going to be using these diving abilities more and more while they’re hunting…I think it will help them as long as there’s some ice. If they lose the ice completely, then there’s not very much they can do.”

Categories: Environment, Internet, Science and Technology, Society
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


One comment on “Guide sees record-long polar bear dive
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    The present climatic change is testing so many creatures to the limit, and not all may survive and adapt, as previous research has shown.