After three days of desperately searching for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) through thick fog, the expedition vessel that Sarikhani was on changed course and sailed southeast toward some sea ice. There, the crew spotted two polar bears — a younger and an older male. Just before midnight, as the ship hovered close to the bears, the younger one climbed onto a small iceberg and carved out a bed with his paws before drifting off to sleep.
“This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” Sarikhani said in a statement shared with Live Science.
Members of the public voted “Ice Bed” as the competition winner from a shortlist of 25 images curated by a panel of judges and the Natural History Museum in London.
“Nima’s heartbreaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet,” Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said in the statement. “His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.”
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“Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope,” Sarikhani said. “There is still time to fix the mess we have caused.”
The winning photograph will be displayed alongside four other “highly commended” images both online and in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum until June 30. The shortlisted photographs can be seen below.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.