Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Polar bear drifting off on iceberg wins supreme award

Publish Date
Thursday, 8 February 2024, 2:17PM
"Ice Bed" by Nima Sarikhani. Photo / Nima Sarikhani

"Ice Bed" by Nima Sarikhani. Photo / Nima Sarikhani

It could be described as a wildlife photographer’s dream.

A photograph of a sleepy polar bear taking a snooze on an iceberg has been named the People’s Choice at the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

Nima Sarikhani’s image “Ice Bed” was named the finest single image out of 75,000 entries to the International Photography Award.

Sarikhani, an amateur photographer from the UK, happened upon the once-in-a-lifetime image three days into a voyage around the Svalbard Archipelago, north of Norway’s Arctic Circle.

He spotted the bear just after 11pm clambering onto a small iceberg and hollowing out a sleeping space using his strong claws.

In the land of the midnight sun, you need to be determined to get a good night’s sleep.

Sarikahani said he was honoured to have his image chosen by the public vote and that it spoke to so many people’s concerns about shrinking sea ice at the poles.

“This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” he said. “Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope.”

It was one of 25 images selected for the public vote by the Natural History Museum in London, which has overseen the award for the past six decades.

Museum director Dr Douglas Gurr called it “thought-provoking” and a clear metaphor for the “impacts of climate warming and habitat loss”.

The polar bear was a clear winner but four runners-up were awarded a “highly commended” distinction from the judges.

This included Tzahi Finkelstein’s cheery encounter between a Balkan pond turtle and a dragonfly named “The Happy Turtle” and an improbable ‘Starling Murmuration’ captured by Daniel Dencescu which formed the shape of an enormous bird.

"The Happy Turtle" by Tzahi Finkelstein. Photo / Tzahi Finkelstein
'Starling Murmuration' by Daniel Dencescu. Photo / Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice


Other images from the main Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition are currently on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Parnell until April 24, 2024.

Founded in 1965 by BBC Wildlife magazine, the 60th edition of the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year will return later this year.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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