BSES youth died in polar bear attack on Svalbard

Posted: Aug 05, 2011 01:45 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) (Updated Aug 5, 2011 05:11 pm) In a press statement The Governor of Svalbard confirms that one person is deceased after a polar bear attack at Von Postbreen, Svalbard, this morning. Four other persons are severely injured in their tent camp. The injured and deceased persons belong to a British youth group, BSES.

The Governor received a message around 07.30 AM this morning (Norwegian time) about a polar bear attack at Von Postbreen, about 40 km from Longyearbyen. The Governor and personnel from the hospital flew out by helicopter, as there are no roads in the area, taking equipment and blood with them. The four injured persons have been brought by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen.

Attacked in tent camp

The BSES group was attacked in their tent camp. They were part of the Societys scheduled expeditions from April to August which involved a science component. The group had a weapon with them and the polar bear has been killed.

According to the BBC the injured are all men and are expedition leaders Michael Reid and Andrew Ruck and team members Patrick Flinders from Jersey, and Scott Smith. "There were about 80 people all told in the expedition. The young people are all between 16 and 23," a spokeswoman said.

Probably a hungry bear

According to nrk.no Polar Bear Researcher John Aars, from the Norwegian Polar Institute says he has not heard of cases where a polar bear attack so many people simultaneously. Normally, it scared people, and certainly there are more of them, he says to NRK.

Aars thinks it may have been a hungry bear that attacked the British. At this time of year there is little ice to hunt for polar bears. They find most of their food on the ice, but must remain on land in the place to find food, said Aars.

The expedition started on July 23 and was scheduled to finish August 28. The name of the deceased has not yet been released by BSES. The injured youth were later flown by ambulance airplane from Longyearbyen to the hospital in Tromsø, northern Norway. The rest of the group was in shock.

(Ed Note Update Aug 5, 2011 05:11 pm) BSES confirmed the name of the British polar bear victim as 17-year-old Horatio Chapple from near Salisbury, who was with 13 others on an expedition on Svalbard.

The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES Expeditions) is a non-profit UK-based youth development charity which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007. Founded in 1932 by the late Surgeon Commander G Murray Levick, a member of Scotts final Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13, BSES is one of the longest running organizations of its type.

Based at The Royal Geographical Society in London, BSES Expeditions has provided opportunities for young people of all abilities between the ages of 16 and 23 to take part in adventurous expeditions that involve scientific research in wilderness areas.

The aim of BSES Expeditions is to help the personal and social development of young people, through the challenge of living and working in remote and demanding areas of the world.

Over the past 75 years, BSES has:
Discovered one new site of bushman artwork and artifacts in Africa.
Trekked 57.6 times around the world (thats 2,303,840km)
Measured 133 glacier snouts in the Arctic.
Recorded 13,860 blood pressures in high altitude physiology studies.
Protected 30,000 turtle eggs.

Patron quotes:

BSES gives those young people with a dream the chance to explore some of the world's most remote regions. With that exploration, I have found, so often comes a sense of pride and achievement - and that is the real magic of BSES. It builds the champions and explorers of the future.
Bear Grylls, British Explorer, Chief Scout and face behind Channel 4s Born Survivor

The British Schools Exploring Society is a unique and precious national resource.it offers unrivalled personal development opportunities for young people.
Pen Hadow, British Explorer, first person to trek solo, without outside assistance, from Canada to the North Geographic Pole

Scientific exploration is essential if we are to continue to develop our understanding of science. That is why the British Schools Exploring Society is vital for equipping young people with the skills, knowledge and inspiration to become tomorrow's scientists.'
Professor Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to H.M. Government and Head of the Office of Science and Innovation


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Evacuation of one of the injured.
Image by Paal Wergeland

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