Bear Island is, perhaps unimaginatively, named after a polar bear that was spotted swimming nearby when the island was first founded. The explorers who achieved this feat were Willem Barents, whom the Barents Sea which the island lies in was named after, and Jacob van Heemskerk, who both landed on the island in 1596.
This small island has seen a few settlers in the past but there have been no permanent inhabitants for many years. And so the only human life that you are likely to come across will be the scientists that work within the meteorological station. Originally, Bear Island was deemed to belong to no one, but the Spitsbergen treaty ruled that Norway gained sovereignty of it in 1920.
The landscape can, at first, seem pretty desolate but if you look closely there is a lot happening on Bear Island. The coastline is made up of a mixture of sheer cliffs, which often have waterfalls cascading off them, shallow beaches, and landing points for boats. Ringed and bearded seals are commonly spotted off the coast and you may be lucky enough to see some walruses, although they have become increasingly rare in these parts.
Conversely to what the name suggests, you are sadly unlikely to find any polar bears on the island. Some do venture here during the cold winter months but very few remain for the summer. It is much more likely that the arctic fox will be the only land mammal you can cross off your wildlife list in this part of the Arctic.