Polar bears attract my attention these days since I am a big fan of Iorek Byrnison, king of the armoured bears of Svalbard, and one of the few admirable adults in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Once Upon a Time in the North. Now, armoured bears aren’t polar bears — after all, they wear armour and talk, for starters — but in our world polar bears resemble them in a few ways: both are left-handed and both are formidable and intimidating, in or out of armour.
I was hastily scrolling through one of those Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: emails of unusual pictures, when I stopped at an image of a polar bear and what was identified as a — submarine!
No link was given, but submarines were mentioned, so I quickly found my way to the source, a photo gallery at the US Navy website. On its “About this site” page, you’ll find:
The purpose of this website is to provide information and news about the United States Navy to the general public. All information on this site is considered public information and may be distributed or copied unless otherwise specified. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested.
I’ve collected credits at the bottom of the post.
The photos in the gallery are well-captioned. For example, this one is about the polar bears:
Arctic Circle (Oct. 2003) — Three Polar bears approach the starboard bow of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Honolulu (SSN 718) while surfaced 280 miles from the North Pole. Sighted by a lookout from the bridge (sail) of the submarine, the bears investigated the boat for almost 2 hours before leaving. Commanded by Cmdr. Charles Harris, USS Honolulu while conducting otherwise classified operations in the Arctic, collected scientific data and water samples for U.S. and Canadian Universities as part of an agreement with the Artic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). USS Honolulu is the 24th Los Angeles-class submarine, and the first original design in her class to visit the North Pole region. Honolulu is as assigned to Commander Submarine Pacific, Submarine Squadron Three, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. U. S. Navy photo by Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs. (RELEASED)
And don’t you like too how the photographer is mentioned by name?
This incident wasn’t the first visit by polar bears to a submarine.
Near the North Pole (Apr. 27, 2003) — During Exercise ICEX 2003, the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) surfaced and broke through the ice. This polar bear, attracted by the hole which can be used to find food, was seen through the sub’s periscope and these photos were captured as the image was projected on a flat-panel display. After investigating the Connecticut for approximately 40 minutes, the bear left the area, with no damage to the sub or to the bear. U.S. Navy photo by Mark Barnoff. (RELEASED)
While at the site I decided to have a look around. Here are some examples of what I found, although they are not truly representative. As you might guess, most are of Navy ships, helicopters, and other vessels. But there are hundreds of others among the several thousand public domain images.
Hornet strike fighters from precision formation Blue Angels squadron at a performance in Virginia Beach:
These three are part of a series of photographs documenting a rescue at sea:
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 12, 2008) Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Zachary Gillespie and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Phillip Gonzales both assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Detachment 5 embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), hoista Norwegian man from the ocean-going tug SVC Tanux II during a searchand rescue medical evacuation. Kearsarge launched a search-and-rescue aircraft in response toan emergency medical distress call. The victim was transported to Guyana for further medical evaluation. Kearsarge is supporting the Caribbean Phase of the humanitarian and civic assistance mission Continuing Promise 2008, an equal partnership mission between the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erik Barker/Released)
Finally, some ships:
Landing craft air cushion vehicle in Djibouti, April 2009; and the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), MS-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, and the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Bridge in the Indian Ocean, 2008.
Credits — all US Navy
3 bears: 031000-N-XXXXB-001; standing bear: 031000N-XXXXB-003; b&w bear: 031000N-XXXXB-002. Photographer: Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs.
b&w standing bear: 030427-O-0000B-001.jpg, 030427-O-0000B-001.jpg. Photographer: Mark Barnoff.
Blue Angels: 080920-N-5345W-196. 080920-N-5345W-197.jpg Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher S. Wilson.
Rescue: 081112-N-9620B-010, 081112-N-9620B-0112, 081112-N-9620B-013. Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erik Barker.
Landing Craft: 090401-N-0506A 559. Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt.
Destroyer: 080823-N-1635S-002. Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Scott.