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Polar Bear Attack

Friday, 05 August 2011
     

A seventeen year old British teenager has been killed and four others were seriously injured by a polar bear in the artic island of Svalbard.

A group of 80 young people, on a trip organised by the British Schools Exploring Society were camped on Von Postbreen glacier near Longyearbyen, when the attack happened at about 5am this morning. The bear was able to attack the camp site having failed to set off a Flare Line, which is a form of trip wire attached to a shot gun shell. When a bear or other animal which makes contact with the boundary, the shell is designed to go off and scare away the animal.

The bear was eventually shot in the head and killed by Michael Reid, one of the injured expedition leaders, but not before it had inflicted horrific injuries on the teenagers in their tent. It is thought that the victim, was killed instantly in the initial attack.

The dead teenager has been named as Horatio Chapple, and the injured as, Patrick Flinders and Scott Smith, and Michael Reid and Andrew Ruck who were leaders of the trip. A BSES spokesman said Horatio was a "fine young man" who had planned to read medicine at university.

Liv Asta Oedegaard, a spokeswoman for the Svalbard district governor's office said, "We got a call via satellite phone from a British group of campers that there had been a polar bear attack and that one person was dead and that others were injured and they needed assistance.

"There are no roads in the area of the Von Postbreen glacier where the incident happened so we scrambled a helicopter. One person has died and four others are injured. Their injuries are serious.".

Earlier this year the Svalbard Governor issued a warning about polar bears, after several were seen close to Longyearbyen. Polar bears are very aggressive and will attack people as potential prey, if they encounter them. At this time of year the ice on which they hunt melts and they are often forced to hunt on land. The bear in this attack was 8 stone underweight, and the injures being inflicted to the head and neck are consistent with predation.

Local people reported that such attacks are not uncommon.

The £2,900 per participant expedition set out on the 23rd July and was on the glacier to witness the midnight sun.

In an entry called "Sea Ice and Polar Bears!" in the expedition's blog on July 27, Marcus Wright, a member of the expedition, wrote on 27th July, in an entry titled "Sea Ice and Polar Bears!", "After arriving in Longyearbyen to see our first midnight sun we were all so relieved to see our tents set up and waiting.

"I think we must have all dreamed of polar bears because the next day were eagerly waiting for the ice floes to break up so we could move on to base camp.

"There was a p.bear sighting across the fjord about a mile away."

"We encountered another p.bear floating on the ice, this time we were lucky enough to borrow a kind Norwegian guides' telescope to see it properly.

"After that experience I can say for sure that everyone dreamed of p.bears that night."

 

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