This week has been incredibly hectic, especially in terms of taking water samples. We have had almost 3 days of continuous sampling, and all of the samples have to be filtered in a multi-step process. This involves filling various bottles and syringes, filters that explode off the top of the syringe (invariably knocking over filled sample bottles - start again), and caulk guns. After several 14-16 hour work days, my hands are hurting, I have calluses, and I have been hearing the "pop" of plungers removing from syringes in my dreams - not a good sign.
I was just about to go to breakfast at 7:30 am (ship time) and looked out my window to see the beautiful sunset (real time). Then, there it was - a polar bear. I grabbed my coat and hat, talked to several people in the hall about alerting others, and ran out on deck.
The bear was identified as a male - I was not able to check directly (and wouldn't want to), so I'll go with it. He approached the ship and got within 30-40 feet. He regularly sniffed the air, turned around if it heard unusual noises from the ship (metal doors closing), trotted away very quickly (supposedly they are as fast as race horses over short distances, which is why you need bear guards on the ice), and even rolled on its back in the snow.
Seeing the bear has been one of the high points of the trip (and made the rest of the day much more manageable).