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POLAR BEARS OF THE CARIBBEAN



On the little island of Nanuq, in the Portuguese West Indies, live the only known members of the subtropical polar bear species, Ursus calientus. Scientists differ as to how this normally northern bear came to live here, but the most widely-accepted theory is that during the breakup of the last Ice Age, a few bears were carried here by an ice floe which grounded on the island. The bears, whose diet normally consists mainly of ringed seal, have adapted and now subsist largely on coconuts and the occasional grounded dolphin. In addition, they've become adept at fishing the fringing reefs during low tide for sea monkeys, which they consume in vast quantities.


Unfortunately, the island is normally off-limits to human visitors, as the bears are extremely dangerous. In 1910, a cruise ship out of Veracruz, Mexico wrecked on the reefs, and all traces of passengers and crew vanished. It is assumed that they, as well as all provisions on the ship, were consumed by the bears. The only traces of the wreck ever found were several cracked-open barrels of a new food product called spiced potted ham, or SPHAM. The bears left the contents of those barrels totally untouched.



We were extremely fortunate, through special arrangement with the Nanuqian Ministry of Resources, to be allowed access to the island, and to capture these rare images of the bears. The photos were shot from behind a blind consisting mostly of unexploded artillery shells, left over from the days when the island was used as a gunnery range by the Portuguese Navy's Submarine Artillery Group.


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