Russian meteorologists were trapped for two weeks in a remote location. Why? Polar bears, that’s why.
This sounds like the plot of a horror movie; Russian meteorologists found themselves basically held captive in a research station by swarming polar bears.
For two weeks, the meteorologists, who serve one-year shifts at the location, have been trapped in the remote outpost on one of Russia’s remote Izvestiy TSIK Islands some 2,800 miles from Moscow. Normally the scientists used flares to scare off the bruins, but they ran out long ago.
“The bears live in the Arctic, you know – we can’t ban them from hanging around,” the station’s supervisor Vasily Shevchenko told reporters. “Worst case, the station chief has a gun.”
Russian laws make killing a polar bear illegal unless in self-defense. So going outside was not an option for the meteorologists. In fact, this meant the meteorologists had to put some work measuring sea levels on hold as some of the bears have decided the areas just outside the windows were a great place to take a nap.
Initially it was worried it could take anywhere from a week to a full month for a supply ship with more flares to reach the scientists. But the scientists avoided a really, really bad case of cabin fever when a supply ship was detoured early Tuesday morning.
The ship flew in a helicopter that was used to frighten away the bears and gave the meteorologists a fresh supply of flares.
In the wake of the rescue mission, some new details and photos also emerged from the station. One unfortunate detail is the fate of one of the station’s guard dogs named Matilda.
“We got in touch with the weather station and found out that the polar bear killed one of their dogs,” Viktor Nikiforov told the Daily Mail. Nikiforov ventured to the island on the resupply mission. He also brought two new puppies to the meteorologists that will hopefully grow up to be new guard dogs for the researchers.
Nikiforov also told the Daily Mail he understood why the situation happened in the first place.
“Basically it is normal for the island at this time of year – 22 years ago I was briefly based here – but the personnel must be equipped with the means of scaring the bears away, preventing them coming too close,” Nikiforov said. “As soon as you stop pushing the bears back, they become insolent and feel that they are in control of the territory, and this is just one step away from emergency situation.”