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Cameraman Doug Allan spent six weeks looking for polar bears on an Arctic Norwegian island for Planet Earth. As a way to protect the habitat, no humans had been allowed on the island in 25 years. To get special permission to be there, Doug and the rest of the crew agreed to not use any motorized vehicles.

At first, Doug says, having no snowmobiles seemed like it was going to be dangerous—especially since humans can't outrun an aggressive polar bear. In the end, though, living without a vehicle gave them a newfound appreciation for their surroundings. "Spending all that time walking around rather than with machinery, we really got right into the polar bears' world. We felt the difference in the snow textures, the difference in the temperatures," he says. "We were really living in polar bear time, in polar bear land."

Without snowmobiles, the crew was constantly vulnerable, even in their cabin. One time a hungry polar bear smelled their food and wouldn't leave, even after the crew tried to scare it away with blanks and flares. Eventually, the polar bear left…but on his schedule.

Doug says the bear probably could have gotten into the cabin if he'd wanted to, but he had a Plan B in case that happened. "We had frying pans ready," he says.
FROM: Oprah's Magnificent Obsession
Published on March 30, 2007


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