Cruise Line Employee Kills Polar Bear While Preparing for Shore Excursion

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On Saturday, the 155-person MS Bremen, a Hapag-Lloyd Cruises vessel, was preparing for a shore excursion on Norway’s Spitsbergen island as a part of a 10-day cruise when an advance team of four polar bear guards encountered a bear on shore.

According to reports, the polar bear “unexpectedly attacked” one of the four guards, and was ultimately killed by another of the guards in self-defense.

“A person is injured by polar bears in Sjuøyane, north of Svalbard,” the Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway tweeted. “The polar [bear was] shot and killed.”

The guard who was attacked by the bear was responsive, air-lifted for treatment and is reportedly “out of danger, with no threat to life.”

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises issued a statement on their Facebook page, saying the polar bear guards go ashore in advance of passengers to set up a land station and check the area to make sure there are no polar bears in sight. If a polar bear approaches, the shore leave would typically be stopped.

“The incident happened when … one of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted, and he was unable to react himself,” the HLC statement said. “As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be an intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person.”

“Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has been traveling to these destinations for many years with an experienced cruise … we are extremely sorry that this incident has happened.”

The Associated Press noted that travel to the Arctic wilderness has grown significantly in recent years — and as many as 18 cruise ships are set to dock at Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest settlement, in the next week.

Svalbard, a frozen landscape of glaciers and tundra with more polar bears than people (approximately 3,000 of the fewer than 31,000 polar bears on Earth), is a popular destination for expedition sailings.

And with nearly 30 new expedition ships — capable of plying the Arctic’s frozen waters — expected to set sail by 2022, encounters such as this are likely to increase. 

TPG reached out to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises for more information, but no one was available to comment at this time.

Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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