2003-08-15 / Community

Feisty Senior Has Date With Ferocious Bears

By Brian Magoolaghan
Feisty Senior Has Date With Ferocious Bears By Brian Magoolaghan


Barbara Hillary stands in the snowy-cold Churchill, Mani­toba, Canada, the “Polar Bear Capitol of the World,” during a past trip.Barbara Hillary stands in the snowy-cold Churchill, Mani­toba, Canada, the “Polar Bear Capitol of the World,” during a past trip.

Barbara Hillary won’t spend her vacation on a Florida beach or at home, knitting a sweater for a friend. At 72, she is headed to Norway’s Svalbard Islands to go "Mushing with the Great White Bear."

"I like high adventure," she said. "I wanted to travel but didn’t want anything John Doe."

Early next year Hillary, a beginner photographer, will embark on a two-week wildlife excursion. While searching for the bears, she will travel by dogsled and snowmobile. Hillary said she is looking forward to caring for her Huskies and shooting as many bears as possible—using her new Canon Rebel 35mm camera.

Hillary first witnessed the bears in the wild nearly three years ago. "You can see a Polar Bear in the zoo," she said, but seeing one it its natural environment is something you will "carry with you for the rest of your life."


Barbara Hillary, who photographed this bear, is ready to load her new Cannon film camera for her next expedition.Barbara Hillary, who photographed this bear, is ready to load her new Cannon film camera for her next expedition.

Hillary recalled the first time she photographed one. "I was leaning over a fence…I should not have been leaning that far over!" she said with excited laughter, still in awe of the snow-crawling giants that can measure more than eight feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds. Hillary described their black eyes and said when you look in to them in person, you feel like you are being sized up for a meal.

So, why after more than seven decades has this Arverne resident decided to become spend several thousand dollars and risk her life? Hillary, whose short black hair is graying, said she won’t just "drop anchor" now that she is a senior. Older people need to "do something…build something in to their life to grace their sunset years," she said.

"Other crazy people," she laughs when asked whom she is going with. She is not traveling with personal acquaintances. Traveling with six or seven strangers will force her to be more outgoing.

In preparation for her trip, Hillary has assembled a wardrobe of clothing rated for extreme cold. "The right clothes really make a difference," she said. She has also been working out on a treadmill—she said when she calls "mush!" she doesn’t want the dogs to look over their shoulders at her and think she must be kidding.


Hillary doesn’t worry about having a medical emergency in such a frozen and remote place. Relating herself to a used car, "I’m high-mileage," she said, "so I go for a check-up."

After this vacation Hillary said she wants to see the wolves of Yellow­stone National Park and mountain gorillas.


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