With great sadness Der Spiegel reports here reports that a 17-year old Briton was killed by a polar bear attack on the island of Spitzbergen in the Arctic. Also another 16 year old and a 17 year old were injured, and 2 group leaders age 27 and 29 years respectively. The victims were part of an expedition organised by the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES).
According to a BSES press release, the tragic death earlier this morning involved one of the members of its expeditions in Svalbard. In addition to his death, four other members of the expedition sustained injuries, two of them severe. They were evacuated to Tromsø hospital. No other members of the expedition were injured.
Der Spiegel writes:
The office of the island’s Governor explained that the polar bear’s attack occurred near the Von-Post glacier. The group had 13 participants and had set up a camp of tents located 40 km from Longyearbyen when the polar bear attacked in the morning. ‘The bear attacked the people inside their tents,’ said police chief Erik Nygaard, according to NTB-information.”
According to Der Spiegel, the island is inhabited by about 2500 people and 3000 polar bears.
The BSES is a non-profit UK-based youth development charity. Founded in 1932 by the late Surgeon Commander G Murray Levick, a member of Scott’s final Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13. BSES is one of the longest running organisations of its type.
Polar bear kills are treated like potential murders
Expeditions are normally provided with firearms for protection. But as Der Spiegel reports, shooting a polar bear is legally risky – no joke:
If a polar bear is killed on the archipelago, then it automatically leads to a trial. In this case the authorities assume the role of defence attorney for the dead bear.”
So who is going to want to shoot?
Who knows, maybe all the tenderheartedness and sympathy that had developed for polar bears over the years in their bogus climate-caused plight may have contributed to the death of the young man. Let’s all be nice to Mr. Polar Bear. The combination of getting too close and not taking the threat from the seemingly cuddly animals could have led to the group putting it guard down. This is pure speculation on my part, of course. Surely the authorities will conduct an intense investigation.
The BSES website explains its primary purpose:
Based at the Royal Geographical Society, BSES provides opportunities for young people of all abilities between the ages of 16 and 23 to take part in adventurous exploration that involves scientific research in wilderness areas. The expeditions can last for several months and the location tends to be different each year but could be anywhere from the Arctic to the Himalayas. The aim of BSES is to help the personal development of young people, through the challenge of living and working in remote and demanding areas of the world.”
The online UK Telegraph shows that close encounters with polar bears are not unusual and have occurred in the past. A disaster has probably been long in the works. Click here to see an incident that involved a BSES Expedition and a polar bear in 2006.
Finally, again speculation, the relatively youthful age of the expedition leaders also indicates to me that the group may not have had the experience needed to properly judge the risks and dangers involved. There are going to be lots of really tough questions in the days and weeks ahead.
UPDATE: Kook Russian rag blames student for the murder of the bear. Hat-tip Reader Paul: http://english.pravda.ru/society/stories/06-08-2011/118667-bear_student-0/. Obviously the author of that nonsense was probably hitting the vodka bottle a little too hard.