hile we’ve seen countless bear tracks, we have yet to encounter a bear. In Svalbard, the archipelago between Norway and the North Pole, polar bears are so prevalent and pose such a threat to humans that it’s mandatory for each shore party to carry a firearm. We watch from the safety of the 68-foot Nordhavn Migration one sun-drenched day as a sailing vessel makes an abrupt 180-degree turn. Through binoculars, we see the swimming polar bear the vessel is working hard to avoid. I grab my cameras and, with two companions, motor out in the tender to follow the bear from a safe distance. He pays little mind other than to glance over his shoulder occasionally at us with profound indifference. Dog paddling, the bear makes his way to the far shore, shakes off in canine fashion and ambles up a rocky bluff to a snow field, where he promptly falls onto his back and rolls with all four paws reaching skyward. We’re so giddy that we nearly forget he’s among the greatest of all apex predators. Getting to this moment has been a memorable adventure. I’ve made many ocean passages, all too often across unfriendly seas, but somehow this one is different. Each time Migration’s bow digs into a trough, she feels as if she’s come to a standstill, protesting the notion of going any farther. I know exactly how she feels; I’m prone to seasickness, however, I’ve made an uneasy truce with the malady, learning to live with it rather than fight it, while cursing those who are immune. This first leg, from Tromsø on Norway’s northern coast to the Svalbard Archipelago, is a clear indication that hostilities have resumed.