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Photographer Catches Polar Bears Roaming Free at Meteorological Station on Abandoned Island

In one of the most eastern part of Russian Arctic, there lies a deserted island in which polar bears have taken over. Russian photographer Dmitry Kokh has recently released a bunch of beautiful images that show the animals roaming free among the town’s buildings.

The animals inhabit a meteorological station that has remained abandoned since the 1990s and is situated on an island between Alaska and Russia, one that Kokh says is difficult to travel to.

We sailed by yacht along the coast and covered more than 1,200 miles of untouched landscapes, villages lost in time, spots with various fauna, and seas full of life.

He explains that it was when he and his team were passing through the Kolyuchin Island near the northern coast of Chukotka, they spotted the animals. “We saw some movements in the windows of the abandoned windows there,” Kokh recalls. “And when we got close — those were bears!”

The island itself is only 2.8 miles (4.5 km) long, and just 0.93 miles (1.5 km) wide. Russia Beyond notes that Soviet scientists built a polar station in 1934, which was in operation until 1992, but that the island has remained uninhabited ever since.

Kokh’s polar bear images have rightfully received recognition, with one from the series-winning Best Image of Wildlife in an Anthropogenic Environment” in a 2021 Russian photography contest, a competition organized by National Geographic.

See more of Kokh’s work at his website and Instagram.

Images used with permission.

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11 Comments
Ryan Cooper's picture

These are incredible. I have to assume they were taken with a drone? No way the photographer was close enough to the bears to take these shots. They are too wide looking to be from a big boy tele. Also the bears are all engaged with the camera which means they were curious a out the strange buzzing thing flying near them?

Deleted Account's picture

There are photographers who are ballsy enough to do it with a short or standard lens. David Yarrow comes to mind. I wouldn't but it can be done.

Edit: this is his comment on IG, make of it what you will:

"In the last few weeks I received a number of questions regarding the life risk and danger during the polar bears series shoot. I think I need to say a very important thing: there was no risk at all, all pictures were taken using technology and a bit of magic. Polar bears are wild animals and could be extremely dangerous for humans, so if someone thinks that I walked around the island dodging bears like superman, this person is completely wrong. So, first of all, never ever try to approach a polar bear. And secondly, also important, "no disturb" tactics is my priority at any time with animals, so polar bears from Kolyuchin Island were neither disturbed nor harmed."

Steven de Vet's picture

"also important, "no disturb" tactics is my priority at any time with animals, so polar bears from Kolyuchin Island were neither disturbed nor harmed."

flying a loud and buzzing drone 2 feet away from the heads of the polar bears...

Deleted Account's picture

That wasn't lost on me. They seem curious rather than disturbed - I note the word "disturbed" has a linguistic ambiguity.

However, this isn't a debate I want to get into, as animal psychology and welfare is well outside my expertise.

Jason Frels's picture

Ironic that you are concerned with a drone disturbing their habitat when they are in human built structures that have been placed in their habitat.

Tim Tait's picture

Wow that was at least 4 bears that look full-grown all on that little island. I wonder what they are eating???

Julien Vignali's picture

Well.. they probably have a diet based on reckless photographers meat 😅

Ryan Cooper's picture

Polar Bears can swim well. I imagine they aren't limited to just the island.

Fristen Lasten's picture

Amazing photographs!

Amylouise Smith's picture

I love these photos.