In 1773, King George III of England appointed naval officer Constantine John Phipps to command an Arctic expedition. Phipps was dispatched to search for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, on the ice fields near Spitsbergen (now Svalbard), Norway, he found polar bears. The explorer was the first to describe the bears as a distinct species, Ursus maritimus.
Were he to undertake the journey today, Phipps would spot polar bears not on sea ice, but wandering along rocky shorelines, searching for frozen water.