In a very sad story, a teenage boy, 17-year-old Horatio Chapple, was mauled to death and 4 others were injured by a polar bear at Von Postbreen glacier on Spitsbergen Island – a Norwegian island in the Arctic circle — this week. The polar bear came into the boys’ tent, apparently, and was eventually shot dead by an expedition leader.
Horatio Chapple died yesterday (Friday) morning in the hospital.
“The bear was shot dead by one of the leaders of the party of 13, who were with a group of 80 taking part in a five-week Arctic expedition run by the BSES Expeditions, a youth development charity based at the Royal Geographical Society in London,” the Guardian reports.
“The injured were helicoptered to a hospital 25 miles away in Spitsbergen’s capital, Longyearbyen, after the group raised the alarm by satellite phone at 7.30am.”
The boys and two men attacked by the bear were flown to a hospital in the city of Tromso in northern Norway and two of them are severely injured, including the expedition leader who killed the bear.
Apparently, a warning tripwire with a flare use to scare bears away from such camps did not go off as it should, so the bear wandered into the camp.
Of course, with dwindling sea ice, bears are coming into contact with humans more than in the past, resulting sometimes in this sort of occurrence. This expedition team was exploring the wilderness, and the bears are a concern in such situations, but the concern of increasing clashed between polar bears and humans is a real one.
Dwindling sea ice in recent years has led the bears, which usually hunt seals, to look inland for food – including from the eggs of barnacle geese on the island.
According to one Longyearbyen resident, a man sleeping in a cabin near the shore was attacked a few years ago by a bear which smashed its way in and grabbed his sleeping bag. He eventually managed to fight the animal off with an axe.
Liv Rose Flygel, 55, an artist and airport worker who lives near the hospital in Longyearbyen, said there had been a number of bear attacks in recent years. “Last summer a man was attacked by a polar bear and there have also been attacks on a man from Austria and a girl,” she said. “[The man] was taken in the mouth of the bear and his friend ran after it and shot it. The problem is when the ice goes, the bears lose their way and cannot catch food. People don’t really know how dangerous they are – one came down to the sea recently and people were running down to take pictures. They had no idea their lives could be in danger.”
Image via ucumari