Two men returning to their anchored boat at Fredheim on Friday evening got a not-exactly-warm welcome from an uninvited guest as a polar bear climbed aboard and destroyed “significant valuables,” in addition to “slaughtering” the inflatable boat they used to reach shore to go on a hike.
Jon Kristian Bø (who took the above photo) and Dag Nilsen saw distinctive claw and teeth marks on the raft upon their return, causing the men to immediately scan the landscape for bears before turning their attention to the water, according to Svalbardposten (article in Norwegian – no subscription required). That’s when they saw the bear rummaging on the motor boat about 30 meters away.
“It was a strange feeling to see the polar bear sitting in the boat,” Nilsen told the newspaper. “It was both beautiful and scary at the same time.”
The men took some quick photos and retreated to the Hilmar Nøis trapping station a short distance away, fearing the bear might approach them. A shot fired by Bø intended to scare the bear away failed to do so and they contacted The Governor of Svalbard to report the incident, but said they didn’t feel they were in a dangerous situation requiring a rescue.
But after the bear departed the men discovered the hydraulic steering system on the boat was damaged, preventing them from driving it back to Longyearbyen. They eventually got a tow back to town from a acquaintance who was in the vicinity.
The bear also damaged the seats, canopy, heating system and other parts of the boat owned by Bø in addition to destroying the raft. But he told the newspaper he is accepting of such incidents.
“Such a thing can be expected to happen when living in the Arctic,” he said. “We are the strangers here. The polar bear was here first. It will probably cost a little to repair what is damaged, but it can be replaced. What we have learned from this is a story we will remember as long as we live.”