A spokesperson for Hapag Lloyd Cruises gave a statement to the Associated Press after a cruise line employee from one of their ships, the MS Bremen, was injured by a polar bear Saturday in Arctic archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, reports ABC7. The employee’s identity has not been released. In what is being described as an “act of self defense” by the company, the polar bear was shot dead.
Working as a polar bear guide aboard the MS Bremen, the man’s head sustained injuries during the polar bear attack. The MS Bremen had landed in an area known for its remote terrain, reindeer, glaciers, and of course polar bears. This area is a northernmost island called Svalbard archipelago.
“The man was attacked by a polar bear and injured on his head. He was flown out, was responsive, and is currently undergoing medical treatment.”
His sustained injuries were said to not be life threatening, but he was flown by helicopter to the town of Longyearbyen for further medical attention. It is not clear exactly who among those on the MS Bremen shot the polar bear, beyond that it was another employee, says Houston Chronicle.
Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway took to Twitter following the incident, saying that the attack occurred not long after the cruise ship landed in Arctic archipelago.
Polar bears are a type of hypercarnivorous bear native to the Arctic Circle, and can run at speeds up to 25 mph. These massive bears typically weigh around 990 pounds for adult males and 330 to 550 pounds for females. Scientists say that polar bear attacks on humans are a rarity; however, there is scientific evidence to suggest that these attacks are increasing.
“In many incidents, the bears are simply curious. In others, they are undernourished, frightened, or provoked. Experts suggest human-polar bear encounters will increase as more polar bears spend longer periods of time on shore and as human activities increase, both in response to longer ice-free seasons.”
Polar Bear International cites scientists, stating that as sea ice melts, polar bear and human interactions are expected to increase. To some readers, that is alarming. Especially to the fact that sea ice is melting, thereby interfering with the life cycle of not just polar bears, but the communities living alongside these bears. Communities in the north have been coexisting alongside polar bears for hundreds of years. Peacefully so, says Polar Bear International. That peace is being disrupted and the coexistence is being threatened, they say on their site, by receding sea ice and an expanding human population.