The Alluring Aurora Borealis and The Stargazing Polar Bear

Aurora borealis means the light of dawn. The term was first coined by Galileo in 1623 and is derived from ‘Aurora’, the name of the goddess of dawn and ‘Boreas’, the winged god of the north and the winter wind. Boreas is depicted as very strong and with a violent temper to match. He was frequently depicted as a winged old man with shaggy hair and a beard. He held a conch shell and wore a billowing cloak.

In Finland, the aurora borealis is called revontulet, which literally means fox fires. According to a Finnish folk tale, the lights are caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow and sending sparks up into the sky.

The alluring aurora can be seen near the polar regions of the northern and southern hemisphere. While the northern lights are known as aurora borealis, the southern lights are called the ‘aurora australis’.

Scientists have now discovered that in most cases, these two sightings are near mirror-like images of each other, occurring at the same time and with similar shapes and colours. While they do occur simultaneously, the inversion of the seasons mean they aren’t visible at the same time.

There is a huge amount of activity that goes on during the aurora. All of the forces reacting cause constant shifts and flows which makes it look like the aurora is dancing as it travels along the currents of the atmosphere.

It is truly a sight to behold. I think that’s why the Polar Bear decided to reside there. If there’s any animal that I’d consider a born-and-bred stargazer, it would be the polar bear.

The Bear

Brown, black and polar. These are the three types of ‘real’ bears that come to mind whenever I think of the big cuddly animals that we give as gifts to children. When I first started teaching, I was surprised by how many kids were excited to see their beloved soft toys in the flesh when we went to the zoo.

I’d have to explain to them that these are not soft toys and that you definitely should not try to play with them. Over the years, I’ve heard many incidents of terrible accidents occurring due to patrons not following the rules that had been laid out for their own safety. I dreaded the thought of something like that happening to one of my students.

My students would sometimes look at the bears and comment on how clumsy they looked. “Do not be fooled,” I used to say. “They are excellent runners, climbers and swimmers.” As bears tend to hide or sleep, my students thought that they were lazy. It was common to see the bears snoozing away when we went to see them.

The beloved teddy bear is a wild animal. It is not a cartoon character or a soft toy. It may appear to be a docile creature while lounging around. If provoked, however, it will attack you. Only eight species of bear exist in the world today. They are mostly solitary creatures, except when Mama Bear has her cubs with her.

Like humans, bears use shelters such as caves and logs. They usually stay there during the winter months when it is cold and the environment isn’t doing them any big favours. During these periods, they rest and retreat.

The Polar Bear

Polar bear cubs are adorable. They’re playful and social. They play with their siblings as well as their mum. You might be tempted to pick one up to cuddle, but please don’t. Mama Polar Bear will hunt you down. You’d never know by looking at their cute cubs, but the Polar Bear is an apex predator and is the largest member of the bear family.

The apex predator can only be found in the Arctic Circle. Its stomping ground include: Denmark, Norway, Russia, the USA and Canada. The polar bear is a marine mammal and it can swim long distances. It has been known to make the voyage from Iceland to Greenland and lived to tell the tale.

The Polar Bear has evolved to survive in a narrower ecological terrain. Its body has adapted itself for cold temperatures and for surviving on the ice. It mostly subsists on seal, which the great white bear loves eating more than any other animal.

The polar bear has an extremely keen sense of smell. Wherever the seal goes, the polar bear tends to follow. Apart from its favoured source of food, the polar bear tends to generally leave other species alone. They are known to be cautious during confrontations. They prefer to escape or run away unless they are provoked. Polar bears are stealth hunters and the victim is often unaware of the bear’s presence until the attack is underway.

Attacks, generally, are rare as not many humans reside where the polar bears tend do. In recent years, however, polar bears have been venturing into human territories as the ice melts and seals–their primary diet–becomes shorter in supply. It is the fat of the seal that allows the polar bear to hibernate during winter months. Cubs usually eat the red protein-rich parts while Mama Bear feeds on the fat.

Male bears are generally lone rangers and have been known to eat cubs. They tend not to attack if the mother is in close range as she will do what it takes to protect her young. Interestingly, the maternal bond is strong only during infancy. Once the cubs are capable of hunting, the mother will leave them to fend for themselves.

Polar Bears have been said to watch the Aurora Borealis. It must be quite the sight, indeed.


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