By Bill Steigerwald
“Voyage of the Polar Bears”
Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.
– Polar Bears International
TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND
For their historic voyage to Washington, Grandpa carefully chose a special iceberg from among the hundreds slowly drifting past them on the Greenland Sea. Almost 500 feet long, and with two pointed peaks towering 200 feet above the water like sails, it looked like a clipper ship made of blue glass.
While Mother and Junior dug a new cave and fixed it up with some IKEA furniture they found at the town dump, Grandpa and Cousin Eddie hooked up a satellite dish, a small color TV set and a table lamp to a Honda power generator.
“God bless ExxonMobil,” Grandpa said with a wicked laugh as he lugged two 10-gallon cans of gasoline onto the iceberg. “Solar panels don’t work too well when the sun doesn’t come up five months of the year, do they, Junior?”
Mother packed books for Junior’s home-schooling sessions and her special sewing project, which she kept in the old brown suitcase she used when she and Grandpa immigrated to Greenland from Alaska in 1994.
Grandpa brought his ancient nautical charts, a tattered copy of Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” and a 1964 National Geographic tourist map of Washington, D.C., which had a big red circle drawn around the U.S. Capitol Building. Most important, he brought a letter he had received from Washington.
Addressed to “Mr. G.P. Bear,” it was his ticket to the polar bear hearings being held Dec. 18 by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:
Tasiilaq, East Greenland
Dear Mr. Bear,
We are pleased to accept your generous offer to appear as an expert witness at our Dec. 18 hearing to decide whether polar bears should be placed on the Endangered Species list. As someone who has lived among polar bears and studied them for 50 years, your credentials are most impressive. We look forward to hearing what you have to say about these magnificent creatures and we hope it will help us craft legislation that will save arsus maritimus from certain extinction from the effects of man-made global warming.
U.S. Senator, Minnesota
For the next two months, Grandpa’s magical iceberg traveled faster than any had ever traveled before or since. Exactly as Grandpa planned, it sped south and met up with the swift Labrador Current, which swung it around the Island of Newfoundland, through the treacherous Grand Banks and down into the North Atlantic.
As Grandpa predicted, it was the coldest, most ferocious winter in North America in 1,000 years. By Thanksgiving the entire East Coast was locked in a brutal cold spell. For the first time since 1776, the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay were frozen solid.
The Labrador Current carried their shrunken iceberg to within 50 miles of land. Then, putting mother’s old suitcase in a garbage bag, the bears slipped into the sea and swam until they reached the thick ice covering Chesapeake Bay.
“Just like home,” Grandpa said, climbing onto the ice and surveying the vast frozen wasteland.
The weather in Washington was perfect for polar bears. A vicious Arctic air mass had been parked over the city for weeks, pounding it with a series of blizzards that closed most government offices. Not even Al Roker could explain its mysterious origins.
Twenty-four hours later, as the three polar bears walked up the middle of the frozen Potomac River, they saw the Washington Monument shining in the distance. Grandpa smiled. “We’ve made it, kids. Now comes the hard part – getting the politicians in this town to do the right thing.”