Starving Polar Bears Sabotage Spitsbergen Expedition
A Dutch polar expedition to Spitsbergen to study the effects of climate change is sabotaged by the presence of hungry polar bears, broadcaster LIT reports.
The polar bears have been trapped inland by rapidly melting ice, itself an effect of climate change, and pose a danger to the team of 50 scientists and the 50 tourists who are also making the trip .
Apart from the polar bears, high winds and haze made landing difficult and the crew was also affected by an outbreak of coronavirus.
On Saturday, investigators had to cut short their field work because a polar bear had been spotted. According to the rules of the expedition, scientists cannot work if polar bears are near. So far, scientists have only been able to land three times.
There are more polar bears than expected, expedition leader Jan Belgers told the TV station. “They missed the bus, so to speak. When the pack ice recedes, the bears prefer to stay on the ice, but the rapid melting process caught them off guard.
It’s bad news for mothers and cubs, who would normally live off seal meat but will now have to find other sources of food, including goose eggs, reindeer and even grass, said Belgians.
The expedition’s final destination is the island of Edgeøya, where rapid climate change is having an effect on flora and fauna.
This year’s trip follows a 2015 expedition to the region. Investigators hope to record what has changed over the past seven years.
The expedition will last until July 22.
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