We have just received this report. By Sam Marsden, Press Association Chief Reporter
A polar bear has killed one person and seriously injured four others from a British tour group visiting the Arctic, it was reported today.
The tragedy happened this morning about 25 miles from the town of Longyearbyen in the Svalbard islands, which are part of Norway, according to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. The bear has been killed and the four wounded people are being flown to the mainland, NRK reported.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: `Our embassy in Oslo is urgently looking into reports of an incident in northern Norway.'
Irish North Pole Expedition 2012:
News item 2 DEATH Bear
Liv Asta Odegaard, a spokeswoman for the Governor of Svalbard, said:
`We got a call via satellite phone from a British group of campers that there had been a polar bear attack and that one person was dead and that others were injured and they needed assistance. 'There are no roads in the area of the Von Postbreen glacier where the incident happened so we scrambled a helicopter 'She added that four other people had been 'severely injured' and had been taken, first, to hospital in Longyearbyen and that air ambulances would be flying the injured on to University Hospital in Tromso. It is not known how many were in the party or whether they were on an organised tour or travelling individually.'
Date time:051146 AUG 11
News item 3 DEATH BEAR
Earlier this year the Svalbard Governor issued a warning about polar bears after several were seen close to Longyearbyen.
People who spotted bears were asked to telephone a special number. The Governor reminded the public that under local regulations it was prohibited to seek out and disturb polar bears and that obvious
violations of this rule could be punished by fine or jail.
Date time:051153 AUG 11
Trip Report section 3
Step down of Irish North Pole Expedition
Our alternative adventure
A diary account of an interesting few days on Baffin Island
Auyuittuq National Park (land that never melts)
Irish Baffin Island Expedition 2011 - Pat Falvey and Dr Clare O Leary
Day 1, March 12th: We left Pangnirtung late in the afternoon and camped 10km up stream, conditions were good but cold –35 degrees celcius with little wind, we made a good pace along Pangnirtung Fjord in good weather, Clare and I were really happy to be on the move in spectacular surroundings in mountainous terrain after our ordeal of been stuck in Resolute Bay for 20 stressful days.
Our disappointment of having to cancel our North Pole trip now in the recess of our mind and our concentration was now completely focused on the expedition ahead.
Day 2 March 13th: The following morning we continued to the start of the National Park 31km from Pangnirtung which was usually reached in the summer by boat or in the winter by snow mobile but we had chosen to ski for some extra exercise to OverLord where there’s a Wardens hut, an emergency hut and two outhouses are located. This was where the Fjord ended and the land crossing began and the river met the sea.
Day 3 March 14th: The conditions on our third day got colder and windier as we pushed our way along the wide valley floor following a large river bed for 9Km to Crater Lake Moraine. We made our way upstream dragging our heavy North Pole sleds full with extra weight that we had taken for training, making it harder then if we just carried what we needed we had a lot of extra weight as we wanted this also to be a training session. We struggled uphill like little donkeys with heavy loads through a narrowing on eastern shores to Windy Lake. The weather now deteriorating, the river and lakes system stripped from all snow and eroded down to bare ice and rock from the wind. Our journey dangerous under foot as we battled against been blown off our feet on the bare ice. Today one of our highlights was to cross the Arctic Circle en route to the upper reaches of Weasel River. After passing the Arctic circle north east to another narrowing we climbed up through an icy carved river cascade as we tried to gain grip on the rocky outcrops to gain purchase to pull our sleds upstream through the frozen water. It was enjoyable at last to be on expedition even though not the one we had intended but we were now traveling in such a spectacular arena of nature's beauty that we were elated in our new environment. We had an enjoyable day of battling high winds, increasingly dropping temperatures and negotiating through icy rivers and lakes.
Day 4 March 15th: Weasel River - Summit Lake: Today we made our way up along Weasel River in high winds and again the ice conditions were severely slippery especially as the ground steepened below summit lake, we encountered a few sections under foot that had running water between the ice and the river below. The conditions under foot were difficult and made pulling sleds and skiing very hard as the ice built up on the bottom of our skies and made it at times, impossible to walk on them. Ice also caked onto the runners of our sled making our sleds much heavier and more difficult to pull up what was a treacherous ascent of the icy cascaded river. It was so frustrating as we had to keep on cleaning the ice build up on our ski’s and sleds which at times accumulated to two inches thick and evem made skiing difficult. There were also times we crossed sections of the river which where like walking on a trampoline and we feared breaking through into the icy water below which would add an additional problem of getting soaked wet with addition problems of hypothermia. It was really hard but satisfying day pulling our sleds up through the upper section. By the time we finished the days outing we were exhausted and really felt we deserved a good night sleep.
Day 5 March 16th Summit Lake – Glacier Lake an epic outing: This was one of our hardest days on the expeditions which turned into one of those epic outings that you just wish you never had, but one that makes an expedition an adventure and adds that bite of excitement that makes for a memorial outing when you look back and tell the story. As we made our way across Summit and Glacier Lake we were battered with high winds of 70kmph, freezing cold numbing temperatures of -57 degrees Celsius. So due to the dangers that we faced of cold, injury, been blown over and having to pull heavy sleds in white out conditions we decided to retire early for the day at 15:00 for our safety. We were forced to pitch our tent in a narrow Col which made its way from Glacier Lake our high point on our traverse and in white out conditions, Clare and I struggled to pitch our tent in high winds on a down hill slope in amongst a series of sastrugi (sharp irregular ridges and grooves formed by the erosion of high wind.) We were unable to find a camping site earlier in the day and had been unable to find a protected secure campsite on the lakes due to the high wind, the bare ice and no protection to anchor our tent. Eventually we had no other choice but to seek shelter from the storm force conditions and had to make do with our precarious campsite which was home for the night. Immediately once our home was secured we sought shelter from the worsening conditions. We were freezing and relieved to be in out of the wind and our first job was to get the stoves going to warm up the tent.
Relaxed in out of the tempest: For the next few hours we boiled water to rehydrate, made dinner, ate 3000 calories and warmed up our tent to regain our lost energy, before settling down for the night.
Trapped and buried in tent: Hours went buy and eventually we were ready to retire for the night and as usually we would go outside to tighten our guy ropes and to brush the ice from the tent that was caused through condensation before settling down in our sleeping bags. As Clare went to get out of the tent she opened the tent door and found that we were trapped inside having been engulfed with snow. While we were rehydrating and eating the spin drift encased our tent nearly right up to the top leaving only a few inches showing overground. Shocked to find this we knew we had to relieve the pressure from our tent or it could collapse in on top of us and cause a huge problem of destroying our home and then we’d have no shelter for the coming days to complete our journey. We knew we faced a large problem as the storm still howled outside. Luckily we had brought the shovel in when we erected our tent, otherwise we would have to cut our way through the roof as the snow was hard packed outside encasing us in all directions This was a really frightening development and we knew we would have to dig our selves out, to come up with a solution to ensure that our tent would not collapse.
For 3 hours we battled against high wind and freezing cold to create a snow wall protection all around the sides and back of our tent in a horse shoe shape to divert the wind and snow away and to relieve the pressure we had to create a 3 foot channel around our tent. Eventually after much exhausting effort of digging and building a buffer wall we were able to secure our tent from destruction. It was really back breaking hard work. We couldn’t sleep that night as we had to get out every few hours to ensure our tent would not be encased again. Our buffer wall did its job and we were able to divert the spindrift from around our tent, however we had a restless night and neither Clare or I slept.
Day 6 March 17th Polar bear fears; As daylight broke the winds dropped and we broke camp to get under way again, everything was covered in spindrift. We were exhausted and our plan for the day was to drop off the Col and to descend to the valley below. The skies were blue and our surrounding landscape looked beautiful. It was amazing to feel how the conditions had changed over the 24 hour period.
Polar Bear fears: Just as we were leaving camp Clare spotted large polar bear footprints around 14 inches in width signifying a very large male polar bear. We felt that this bear had passed by us during the night or early morning. The foot prints were fresh as there was no spindrift in them and they were perfectly formed. Concerned for our safety we continued cautiously deciding to make our way toward a parks rescue shelter just three kilometers in the valley below to report our finding, we felt very vulnerable knowing that somewhere out there was a huge hungry polar bear and if attacked we had no defense. We decided to have an easy day and settled in for the night in the rescue hut in fear of being staked by the bear we also sorted out all our gear dried out our tent and sleeping bags and made plans for a pick up at the end of our traverse which was now only a three day trek away, 45km down stream. We really had an enjoyable day taking in all our surroundings and winding down from a pressurized night.
Day 7- March 18th: For the next three days we made our way out to the finish of our trek an Pangnirtung North and had mixed weather conditions, from blizzard with katabatic wind to beautiful blue skies. It really gave you a feeling that you could not take any hour for granted never mind saying any day. We were on constant alert all the time on this trek, we weren’t to sure if this weather was because we were doing this early in the season and were the first people this season to do the crossing. For the last two days we had good weather and spectacular scenery as we made our way from June Valley to Owl River seeing massive granite big walls to our pick up destination at North Pang our finishing point.
Days 10 to 15: We were picked up by a local Inuit called Billy for a backbreaking 4 hour snow mobile journey across 85km on rough sea ice to Qikiqtarjuaq (The big Island) a small Inuit community of 500 people situated on Broughton Island while here we stayed with Billy’s parents, a beautiful old Inuit couple who had 8 children. We stayed with them in their home and this was an amazing experience.
This journey across the ice in the sled which was pulled by a snow mobile nearly rattled every organ in my body as Clare and I sat in the back of a sled to complete our journey. I was sitting on a bar which by the time I finished wrenched my back which had already been giving trouble throughout the expedition, leaving me in severe pain. We returned to Pangnirtung as Delia suggested and delved further in the life of Inuits in the Arctic, before returning to Iqaluit where Clare did some Kite skiing with Matty for a few days, I decided to rest my back and to return back to Ireland to recover from an amazing journey that took us to amazing places. Now that we are home we will reassess our plans for the coming year and start back into training and reflect on our journey north and decide on what’s next. We had made the most out of our time in Canada where every cloud has a silver lining.
Over the coming weeks Clare and I will decide if we will be returning for another attempt at the North Pole. It is a huge commitment of both time and finance, it entails putting another year of your life on hold. We will have to assess our ability to secure sponsors and finance for the project as this years adventure were funded from our own fund through borrowing which has now been eroded for us to do the North Pole next year. So its back to the drawing board.
We will keep all our supporters updated through the web site on our progress and hope that you will follow our new adventures.
For me this is my 68th high adventure into the most beautiful and remote regions of our planet.
You can also see out other blogs on our North Pole 2011 expedition on the news section.
Read and listen to part 1 of Trip Report: Step Down of North Pole trip.
Read and listen to part 2 of Trip Report: Step Down of North Pole trip
Thank you for your support and following our adventures,
Every cloud has a silver lining!
Trip Report Section 2
Step down of Irish North Pole Expedition 2011
Our alternative adventure to Baffin island
Irish Baffin Island Expedition 2011 - Pat Falvey and Dr Clare O Leary
Auyuittuq National Park (land that never melts)
Our decision on what we'd do after we stepped down from the North Pole expedition played heavily on our minds. We were torn between a number of different expeditions we could do in the High Arctic on Ellesmere Island but we finally chose a ski trek on Baffin Island on the North east coast of Canada.
Our adventure took Clare and I on a journey across one of the most beautiful areas of Canada in a place of dynamic landscape, spectacular fjords, craggy mountain tops, sheer granite cliff faces and glaciers, on the edge of the great Penny Ice Cap, we stayed with an Inuit family, learnt about Inuit life, its history and culture. The short journey tested our resolve and patience with unpredictable arctic weather in a land that never melts.
Come with us now on what has been an amazing traverse of one of the most beautiful regions of the world. On our expedition we were blown away mentally by the beauty of the trek and the ferocity of its weather. This expedition to Baffin Island from the Cumberland Sound to the Davis Strait was not planned and not in our itinerary, as we could not have guessed that our journey to the North Pole this year would have to be cancelled. Every cloud has a silver lining and this expedition was just that.
Our journey brought us on a 130km back-country ski adventure along majestic fjords, up ice rivers along frozen lakes and rugged mountain landscape with towering spectacular big wall mountains reaching skyward all around us; Ashguard, Thor and many other technical peaks that we had been aware of from mountaineering history.
We were taken by surprise by the conditions that we encountered on our journey, our traverse was not as easy as we had thought. We were dogged by bad weather and felt that for some reason this year the gods were not in our favour. However the challenge made our successful traverse all the sweeter.
We were hammered by freezing cold temperatures going down to - 57 degrees Celsius, high winds gusting up to 70km per hour. We skied up dangerous icy rivers and across windswept frozen lakes. We were encased in our tent by hard pack snow drift in a blizzard.
We even experienced the trepidation of seeing large fresh 14 inch polar bear foot prints of a male polar bear only meters away from our tent, after a restless night of ensuring the flimsy fabric of our tent didn't collapse under the stress of being encased in hard packed snow.
On our journey we met amazing people and learned about Inuit culture from the communities we stayed in. We have learnt a lot about their philosophy of living with the cold Arctic conditions; the local feeling towards a changing world and their feeling of adapting a western way of life - these people who were one time great hunters and survivors of the harsh Arctic.
It may take a few generations to adapt to a new way of life and it is only through education and to reappropriate their language and traditions can the Inuit truly hold onto their culture and adapt to modern way of life.
Our adventure to Baffin was an experience that we will never forget. Our expectations were surpassed by the regions beauty, it's people history and culture and it tested our resolve and patience.
Kindness and hospitality: When we were organizing our trip from Resolute Bay on the North West Passage we spoke to the Parks Manager Delia Slivola in Pangnirtung, she impressed us with the passion she had shown to us on the phone about the Auyuittaq National Park, . She was also passionate about the culture and traditions of the local communities and in particular about the people of the communities of Pangnirtung and Quikqtarjauq, Her passion is what made our minds up to come and visit this area. It ticked all our requirements.
To have an exciting worthwhile expedition in Canada in the Arctic region that blended our love of adventure and learning about the traditions and culture of local Inuit indigenous people
She also went out of her way to ensure all the stops where pulled out for us after hearing about our ordeal on our cancelled North Pole trip. We were given as we say in our Irish language, a ”Cead Mile Failte” “a hundred thousand welcomes”
Pangnirtung “the place of many bull caribou", our expedition began on arrival to Pangnirtung an small Inuit Hamlet of 1300 people situated on the Southern shores of our traverse on the Cumberland Sound. We were greeted by a local Inuit Park Ranger called Matthew who gave us an ordination talk and briefing about the area, the Park, it's wildlife and rescue procedures.
Even though it was on a Saturday afternoon we arrived and the park office was closed Delia however had organized Matthew one of the many native park rangers to go meet us at the airport and help us to get going with our expedition and within two hours of arrival we were on our way. The hospitality that had been afforded to us on our arrival was amazing. We were helped to sort out all our gear, to collect our fuel and driven to the start of our trek from the airport.
Before leaving on trek Matthew warned us about the icy conditions of the crossing and the dangers of high winds and the possibility of coming across Polar Bears. On hearing this Clare and I were concerned that we couldn’t carry our gun to defend ourselves in the event of an attack. Even thought these are beautiful animals they can be at time lethal killers. I saw one while travelling in Spitsbergen in Northern Norway kill two seals with two swipes of his massive powerful claws. We felt a little vulnerable not been able to take our gun.
Also little had we any idea of how windy and cold it could get at this time of the year in the Auyuittuq National Park it was a sting in the tail for us which made our traverse exciting and really made it feel like an expedition. What we have learnt from our experience is that an expedition is about a teams ability to deal with all eventualities no matter what they are that may occur on your journey and to be properly prepared for them and to survive.
Read and listen to part 1: North Pole Step down
Read and Listen to Part 3 of Our expedition on Baffin Island:
Our journey was ready to begin which I will describe on part three of our Trip report if you wish to continue.
Mon 28th March - Today Pat flew back to Dublin.
After a few weeks of training and exploring in the Arctic region, Pat returns looking forward to catching up with family and friends with many tales to tell of what no doubt was a trying yet amazing experience for himself and Clare. Clare is due to return to Ireland in the coming days and we look forward to hearing of her safe return home.
Reports of their adventures in the Arctic will follow in the coming days.
Pat was in contact late Saturday, 19th March. He and Clare have had an amazing week crossing exploratory routes on Baffin Island and will get in touch with details as soon they get settled and decide on their next move. Reception was poor over the last week so the call had been much anticipated by family and friends who are now delighted to hear that both are fit and healthy and looking forward to coming home soon..
Corks 96FM's PJ (the Opinion Line) interviews Pat from Resolute on the reasons behind the Irish North Pole's Teams decision to abort their expedition, the effects Global Warming is having on the North Pole and how that may affect their future plans if they were to return to the Pole for another attempt. The interview can be heard on the following Podcast.
'North Pole Ski update: Ben Saunders heading to Resolute Bay and new plans for the RAF, Irish and Italian teams.
Pat Falvey had a chat with ExplorersWeb from Resolute Bay. He and Clare O’Leary and the RAF guys, Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes have regrouped and are going to make use of the time and gear to explore the Canadian Arctic and gain more experience in those conditions.
Pat talks about the reasons he and Clare made their decision to abort their expedition.
'Disapponited, disheartened but moving on' Pat
This is the first time a situation like this has occured in over 68 adventures
Listen to podcast
All ski teams abort expeditions from Canada to Geographic North Pole (90°N)
Posted: Mar 06, 2011 02:39 am EST
Press release Irish North Pole Expedition 2011, Northern Exposure 2011, Expedition North Pole Solo 2011
In an email sent to ExplorersWeb at 22h57 GMT Saturday March 5 by Pat Falvey on behalf of all the 2011 ski teams, they announced their decision to abort this year’s attempt. To view the full article, click here...
'All teams leaving for the Pole from 25th February have made a decision to abort due to weather conditions and forecast for coming days.'
Press statement from all three teams below.
We are now planning an alternative journey up here. Will inform all in due course.
It really has been a frustrating time and to have to make this decision. We shall now reflect on our decision and see what our future plans are.
Pat (Mar 05th 22:55 Irish time)
Press Statement Irish North Pole Expedition 2011, Northern Exposure 2011, Expedition Nord Pole Solo 2011
It's been pretty frustrating this ends with delays..- we were originally scheduled to fly Feb 25 and this date has been postponed and postponed for various reasons- mainly due to daylight hours and weather conditions that have been unsuitable for landing. We have had all our equipment out at the airport since last Sunday and are just waiting here in Resolute Bay, paying a small fortune and waiting.
The bigger problem is that we had allowed ourselves 60 days for the North Pole Expedition and did not think we'd have a whole lot if time to spare for bad weather/conditions on the ice. We are now 7 days later than we had anticipated with no definate flight date- and the chances of a successful trip are becoming very slim. If we don't make the NP by April 26th (the final day for pick up by the Russians who operate a temporary ice base on the Arctic ocean), then we will have to pay for a pick up from this side by the Canadians which will cost an extra 105k!! Their final date for pick up is April 30th and our expedition would be forced to finish, regardless of our proximity to the pole or otherwise.
We have been on standby for the past 2 mornings, with all the anticipation and apprehension that that brings, but again got a stand down call at 7.00am. Although the pilot is ready to fly, the conditions are impossible.
We have also managed to get an independent forecast from a meterologist - as opposed to a pilot's interpretation of the weather chart which is all short term - and she is expecting blizzard or near blizzard conditions at our start point on today, (Saturday) followed by another low front on Sunday, concluding that there is a possibility we may fly on Monday, but the best conditions are on Wednesday/Thursday of next week - ie March 9, 10 - which is 12-13 days later than we had planned for.
So the issue now is becoming whether or not we will get going at all. If we start out with a very low probability of making it, it's throwing a lot of money away. There are 3 teams up here, the Irish (Pat Falvey and Clare O'Leary), the RAF (Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes)and the Italian, Michele Pontrandolfo. There have been lots of discussions as we are all due to share the same flight onto the ice.
With the above information and having reviewed several expedition logs from previous years, we have been forced to make a decision on whether or not it makes sense financially, from an adventure point of view and whether it is fair to sponsors to start on an expedition that is almost certainly doomed to be unsucessful.
Very reluctantly we have decided, no. These 3 expeditions to the Geographic North Pole are off for 2011.