Photographer Dmitry Kokh has captured up-close, intimate photographs of polar bears living in an abandoned Arctic weather station in Russia.
In August 2021 Kokh set off on an expedition in a small ice-class sailing yacht. Along the way, Kokh was joined by a range of wildlife, he wrote in a column to The Guardian.
"Stopping in deserted bays and photographing grey and humpback whales. We met an incredible number of different birds, several brown bears, sea lions and seals."
After weeks of sailing, the captain approached a small island in the Chukchi Sea, Koyluchin, to shelter from a storm.
"Koyluchin is known for the polar weather station that operated on it in Soviet times. Though the station was closed in 1992, the abandoned village still stands on the island," he wrote.
While Kokh and the crew of the ship took shelter, he says someone took out some binoculars and saw the heads of polar bears.
"The bears walked around the houses and among barrels left on the island a long time ago, there were about 20 animals in sight at the same time."
It was too dangerous for Kokh and his crew to land on the island that day so he launched his drone to have a closer look.
"I took pictures from a drone equipped with special low-noise propellers. I also used certain tricks of the trade that allowed me to shoot the animals without disturbing them."
Kokh asked one of Russia's top polar bear experts, Anatoly Kochnev, why polar bears love to sit in the buildings.
"First of all, polar bears are very curious by nature, so they always attempt to get through any unlocked window or door. Secondly, unfortunately, these animals were traditionally hunted, and so they use these houses as a form of protection from humans," Kochnev said.
Kokh said he was told that bears very rarely appear on the island in such numbers and no one knows why.
"But once every nine years the floating ice remains near the shore in summer. Consequently, the bears do not travel to the north with the ice, as usual, and take up residence in the abandoned polar station."
He said even though months have passed since the expedition he still sometimes can see polar bears in decaying windows before his eyes when falling asleep.