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Amazing Photo of a Polar Bear Swimming and the Story Behind It



Frenchman Joe Bunni is not a photographer; first and foremost he’s a dentist. Once you learn that, the fact that he captured the above photo and won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in 2011 is even more incredible. The photo shows a polar bear swimming not more than a few feet away from Bunni, and if you think the photo is amazing, wait until you hear the story behind it.

The hard-earned money Bunni makes fixing cavities goes towards financing amazing wildlife photography trips. It was on one such trip in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, Canada, after an encounter with an aggressive mother bear followed by three fruitless days on a small boat looking for a lone bear, that Bunni finally ran into this female.

They hung around at a distance until the bear got used to their presence, after which Bunni took his Nikon D2X (safe in its Aquatica housing) put on a mask and some flippers, and got in the water with a polar bear. Italics don’t do this act justice.


Once he was in the water, the polar bear swam towards him, and for 20 minutes Bunni was able to take photo after photo of the incredible creature as she checked out the situation. It was then that the bear caught sight of her reflection in the Aquatica housing, approached, and pushed her nose against it. This startled her, and as she backed up Bunni snapped the award-winning photograph.

The encounter ended when the bear pressed its gigantic paw against the housing — as if saying “okay, I’m outta here” — turned around, and left.

Speaking about the experience to the Natural History Museum, Bunni says “It’s amazing when a huge, powerful animal comes up beside you.” With all due respect, we think he meant terrifying … it’s terrifying. To see more of Dr. Bunni’s amazing wildlife photography, visit his website by clicking here.

Image credit: Photograph by Joe Bunni and used with permission