Author James Raffan has named Nanu’s cubs: the male is Kingu, the female is Sivu. After feasting on a seal on an ice floe, the family heads back for shore. After three hours of swimming:
Kingu is tiring and heading for his mother. His face is still white but his back is now streaked black, and he is leaving threads of oil in the water as he makes his way toward them. He, too, is cold and getting colder. The sight, the smell, the sound of her approaching cub is unlike anything Nanu has ever seen. By the time she is able to sniff land, she has two sodden cubs taking turns clinging to her back for even a moment of warmth.
After eleven hours of swimming, Nanu’s feet touch the tidal mud in several feet of water. The last obstacle is not the walk to shore, however — it is a wall of landfast ice that has remained on shore while the rest of the ice was blown out to sea. The cubs have survived more than twenty-five miles of open sea, but they lack the energy to clamber up to safety.
Nanu grabs them one at a time and struggles to set them up on the ice barrier. Kingu is now covered with oil and shivering. Sivu is shivering, too. Nanu does her best to bring them close so that they can benefit from her warmth and nurse, but neither has energy to eat. They fall asleep in their mother’s embrace on the ice. Nanu frantically licks at Kingu to try to clean the oil from his fur.
— Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic, by James Raffan, Chapter 6 (“Learning”)
About Nanu’s unceasing effort: The only way she knows to get the oil off her cub’s fur is by licking. Which means that she herself ingests petroleum.
p. 88: “Kingu shivers unusually, particularly at night, because the oil has destroyed the loft in his fur.”
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