A Sauna And A Bear: The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov

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In this article Russian explorer Ivan Kutasov describes the climax of the expedition to the Svalbard archipelago, how the travelers reached the Arctic Ocean, how they walked on glaciers, and how they hid from a polar bear for two days.

To The Sauna With A Bear - The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov
To The Sauna With A Bear - The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov

Direction: North Pole

Before even imagining any meeting with a bear, we just decided to reach the northernmost point of the Archipelago. That was on the 80°50′ north latitude.

Since weather conditions were favorable, we tried to move farther north and conquer the 81° north latitude. With that we achieved a kind of personal record of proximity to the North Pole.

Expedion to the Svalbard archipelago

Photo by Ivan Kutasov

Having made a preliminary request for satellite data regarding weather conditions, we set course straight to the north. After a lapse of approximately eight hours, monolithic ice appeared on the horizon.

We spotted a block of ice which looked solid and disembarked on it in order to make a joint photo. It was the northernmost point of our expedition – 81 09.079 north latitude.

The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov
Photo by Jon Grantangen

Further to the North

It wasn’t safe to stay there for a long time, because the ice was constantly moving. As a result, it could have blocked our yacht, which wasn’t made of steel.

Nevertheless, we had a chance to walk on the ice for about half an hour. And I even managed to climb up the mast to observe whether there were any bears nearby.

Certainly, to cast a glance in the direction of the North Pole situated almost 9 degrees. In other words, 540 nautical miles away from us.

All in all, I didn’t spot a bear… I could only see the white stillness and the boundless ice surrounding us….It was a bit sad to leave this place, but we had to go back.

The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov
Photo by Jon Grantangen

The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov
Photo by Ivan Kutasov

Returning back

We planned that our return trip would lie through the Hinlopen Strait (Norwegian: Hinlopenstretet). This 150 kilometers long strait separates the Nordaustlandet (the North East Land) island and the West Spitsbergen island. What’s interesting, people consider this place already as part of the Arctic Ocean in terms of location.

Because of the strong current in the gulf often filled with pack ice, we brought our vessel to anchor. We did so in one of the bays nearby in order to request data on the ice conditions in this particular sector.

We chose the bay whith an abandoned Polish meteorological station. All of that in hopes that it would have a sauna. This was the place where an amusing incident happened to us.

To The Sauna With A Bear
Photo by Ivan Kutasov

Meeting the White Bear

After we sailed into the bay, lowered the anchor, and prepared the boat for a landing, we saw a white bear walking lazily and aimlessly among the buildings of the weather station.

The weather forecast was unfavorable, so we stayed in the bay for the next three days no matter what. The bear was disappearing and reappearing every now and then.

However, we had to intention of giving up so easily. After so many days spent on the yacht, we wanted to feel solid ground under our feet, and just the word “sauna” made our hearts pound.

We scouted the shore tirelessly, and on the third day the bear finally disappeared.

To The Sauna With A Bear 
to by Ivan Kutasov

Is the bear still around?

Another member of the expedition and I took our rifles and made a landing. We quickly singled out the sauna by its exterior appearance, and went straight towards it, while looking around incessantly, because the bear could have appeared at any moment.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew stayed in touch with us over the radio, and were constantly inspecting the shore. The stove in the sauna was barely functional, but we managed to light it up.

At that moment the voice over the radio started to warn us that the bear was heading straight towards us.

To The Sauna With A Bear

Photo by Ivan Kutasov

In the heat of the moment, we grabbed the first available stick (it was a shovel) and a rifle. We closed the outer latch lock and began to observe.

Much to our surprise, the bear walked a meter away from our fire, looked in our direction and went on his way without any sign of surprise.

We stayed no less astonished. We exchanged looks and went on with warming up the sauna. Such was our second acquaintance with the local welcoming committee.


To The Sauna With A Bear - The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov

Photo by Ivan Kutasov

The next morning we headed to the southern end of the archipelago, through the strait.

The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov



Photo by Ivan Kutasov

Read more here:

A Journey To The Land Of Icebergs: The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Bears

A First Encounter With A White Polar Bear: The Adventures Of Ivan Kutasov


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