Sometimes you find yourself unable to leave your office because you have plenty of paperwork to do or have hundreds of unread emails that you need to get to, but for a group of Russian meteorologists, a pack of polar bears is what’s keeping them from leaving the weather station where they are currently assigned.
The five meteorologists, who were assigned to a remote Russian island, have been trapped in their weather station for nearly two weeks by some polar bears who swarmed the area, according to a report from NBC News. The weather station is located on one of the Izvestiy Tsik Islands, which is 2,800 miles from Moscow and is much closer to Northern Canada than it is to Russia.
According to Vadim Plotnikov, the weather station’s head, the incident began on August 31, when a group of bears killed one of the station’s resident dogs.
The area usually gets surrounded by pack ice during the winter and polar bears are not an uncommon sight there. However, their local population has increased by twice as much this year to around a dozen or so polar bears, including cubs.
The stranded meteorologists used flares to scare off the animals, but they have since run out of the flares.
“The bears live in the arctic, you know – we can’t ban them from hanging around,” said station supervisor Vasily Shevchenko. “Worst case, the station chief has a gun,” he added.
Russian news agency TASS has reported that a female polar bear has started sleeping right under the windows of the remote outpost, making it dangerous for the scientists to go outside. The news agency has spoken to some of the meteorologists over the phone.
Since going out of the station while the animals are still around is obviously not an option, the meteorologists have had to completely abandon some of their work.
As of this writing, the meteorologists are currently not in any immediate danger. The weather bureau in Arkhangelsk, located about 1,200 miles south of the islands and a week away by boat, is currently planning to send out a ship that will deliver small explosives and additional flares to scare off the animals. They will have to wait for a little while, though, because the additional supplies are not expected to reach them until sometime next month. The meteorologists work in one-year shifts and regularly receive supplies from the occasional ship that passes by their direction.
For the time being, the trapped scientists have been advised to remain inside the station and use “extreme caution” in all circumstances.
Shooting the bears is also out of the question as they are an endangered species. In Russia, it is considered a crime to shoot a polar bear unless it is in self-defense.
Global warming has been taking a huge toll on polar bears as the floating ice that forms their hunting ground continues to shrink. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), an environmental group dedicated to the protection and preservation of animals and nature, this has prompted some of the animals to venture near human habitats as they search for food.
Vassily Shevcenko, the head of Sevgidromet network which owns the weather station, says that this sort of incident has happened before on the island. He added that the bears are expected to leave the island around late October or early November as they search for food. That is around the same time when the waters near the shore freeze, thus, expanding their territory.
In August of last year, three scientists occupying a weather station located on the remote Siberian Arctic island of Vaygach spoke of having to live in close quarters with a group of “aggressive” polar bears.
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