Bad Luck Hits Arctic Trekkers
Apr. 06, 1999
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The only thing that went right for five students on a wilderness trek on the Arctic islands of Svalbard was that they survived at all.
Their string of bad luck started when three of their four snowmobiles broke down due to extreme cold. That forced them to set up camp, only to be hit by an unexpected storm. Then one of their tents was shredded by a polar bear in what was considered a bear-free area, Bjoern Terje Oftedal, 23, said Tuesday.
``It's pretty serious to end up with a polar bear in your tent,'' said Oftedal in an interview broadcast by Norwegian radio on Tuesday. ``You suffer a certain amount of fear, a certain anxiety.''
Two tourists have been killed by polar bears on Svalbard since 1996.
The five men set off on March 27 for a week's trek on Svalbard, about 300 miles north of the Norwegian mainland. They had plenty of supplies, three bear-rifles and an emergency transmitter.
All of them were experienced outdoorsmen, but Oftedal said no one could be prepared for such bad luck. On Friday, they were headed home from Atom Mountain when their snowmobiles broke down. They set up camp at an elevation of about 3,600 feet.
``We had to wait out the weather,'' said Oftedal, adding that winds began blowing at storm force. He said in the middle of the night he woke up to shouts because ``the bear had been in the other tent and tore a big opening.''
They scared off the bear with a flare gun, he said, and the next morning decided to radio for help. But the weather was so bad that it took nearly three more days before the rescue helicopter could land.
Even then, their problems weren't over.
``Now we have to figure out how to get the snowmobiles back,'' Oftedal said.