ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Bear Incident–(Updated)


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It sadly seems that the Russians are incapable of getting through a of year running a tourist trap at the North Pole without doing something that causes the heads of the politically correct to explode. Of course, the politically correct are very touchy  sensitive, and I myself have been known to pass through polite circles leaving accidental craters in my wake. But the Russians can’t seem to avoid offending elitist whack jobs nature-lovers.

Two years ago it was a crashed jet that besmirched the pristine snow.

Last year they offended the Norwegians by having soldiers march about, and the Norwegians offended the Russians by instituting a three-day-wait for tourists going to Barneo, so bags and backgrounds could be checked.

Sadly I think tourists may have been turned off by how badly they were treated last year. Norway may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg, by being so politically correct, for Svalbard stood to make a nice chunk of change from North-Pole-tourism. Or perhaps the elite are nervous about their wealth, with Hillary losing, and are less willing to pay $30,000 for a five day junket to the North Pole. In any case, there seem to be far fewer tourists this year.

Not that I pay any attention to all the fun they are having. Nope, not me. I am utterly focused on the sea-ice in the background, and I’m not at all jealous. Nope, not me. Disinterest is my middle name.

In any case, this year everything has gone like clockwork, but as they collect snow to melt for water, who is the water for?

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However it was with great dismay I then noticed they were already disassembling the tourist lodges, two weeks early.

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However there was hope for the future. The lack of customers might be explained by the failure of Norway and Russia to iron out their differences until the last minute. Also the wonderful efficiency of the crew might be seen as practice, and as a dry run for next year.  What’s more, commitment to landing on the sea-ice might be seen in the fact a small passenger airplane called the L-410, (originally developed in the late 1960’s), was resurrected and production has started again, and one landed at Barneo.

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A few skiers did show up, and found beautiful weather and conditions that appear far better than last year’s. (I love the pictures they post, which allow me to study the sea-ice.)

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Right at this point, when it seemed the Russians might get through a year without offending anyone, a 1500 pound bear walked up to introduce itself to a 140 pound woman, and the woman was politically incorrect, whipping out a gun and blasting the bear.  There may have been a desire to hush up the incident, but it later made the Barneo Facebook page. Here is a translation:

“Our season rarely follows a rigid schedule: one day we’re relocating the camp because of a crack, another day we’re trying to deliver spare parts from Moscow for broken tractors, and so on. We did this season without such kind of a cataclysm, but… An incident has occurred, a sticky one, and – most importantly – a dangerous kind of event.

I already used to tell about bears who terrorize skiers on the route: invaders are walking within 50 meters from the group, men put them off with rocket launcher, and they get back after a while. Each group leader has a rifle for that case.

So, a few days ago it happened that one skier fired a pistol at a bear. She had a Magnum, a combat weapon. I’m not a gun expert but I know this unit has a huge penetrating power. The bear was wounded and then disappeared. It’s hard to say how appropriate it was for the purpose of self-defense; it really may be do-or-die situation. But. The group leader Dirk Dansercoer did not informed the chief expedition leader at the Barneo Station about the incident. He did not informed the person responsible for safety of all of us. It means that people who wounded a dangerous creature concealed the fact that all groups following the same course are in danger from now on. It’s hard to predict how a wounded bear behave.

As soon as we started to get troubling messages that one of the groups is followed by a bear leaving footsteps of blood, we explored from Dirk Dansercoer (who already was at Longyearbyen) the details of the incident. Today all the groups are aware of that danger, they have established a day-and-night duty. And we scheduled a hotwash for all of the guides to elaborate rules for that sort of incidents.”

I can’t really blame a woman for defending herself, but I just know the Russians will catch hell for this. (Groan)

Not that I care. Disinterestedness is my middle name. What is it to me if a lady has a bear for dinner, or vice-versa? All I care about is sea-ice, right?

The ice Barneo is sitting on has slowed its drift in the kind weather, though the temperatures are slowly dropping, from -15°C on April 16 to -24°C on April 18 (which demonstrates the Arctic continues to lose heat under clear skies, despite 24-hour-a-day sunshine. The sun is simply still too low. Any warming is still imported from the south. But the imported air chills more slowly now.)

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There is more to this than meets the eye. From yesterday’s Barneo Facebook page:

In the matter of yesterday’s message about the bear incident: as we just learned, the case is more complicated than it appears to be. Mr. Dansercoer misinformed us. Now the incident is exploring by Norwegian Police; as far as we know, they have a footage and witness testimony. We’ll inform our readers as soon as we get exact knowledge.

But then I suppose the lawyers got involved. From today’s page:

Victor Boyarsky, a member of the International Polar Guides Association, has just informed us that the Bear Shooting Case study is scheduled soon after completion of the Barneo season. They will make a decision after consultations with all the people involved. Until that moment we won’t make any comments on the matter.…

What interests me most is the mention of “footage.” Now, that would be an interesting bit of film to see. I hope it appears on You Tube. But I suppose the reputation of an arctic guide is at stake, so we should be patient. I do know one thing: Those bears could care less about our rules and regulations.

In other news, a new lead (crack in ice with, initially, open water exposed), apparently has made one end of the runway unusable, so they extended the other end. I can’t find any pictures of it yet, nor a description of how wide it is, but here is a nice picture of a “pressure ridge” (what happens when the two sides of a “lead” slam closed):

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15 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE –Barneo Bear Incident–(Updated)

    • No, it is no coincidence. It is sometimes because you often ask me for “a study” when considerable research has gone into my post, and my post is in fact “a study” in and of itself. Rather than appreciated I feel ignored.

      Other times you post links to stuff I find to be inane drivel. You may think it otherwise, in which case you should start up your own website. Then you can share your ideas to your heart’s content, and leave links to your own site on other sites.

      This site is not your personal forum. If you want to comment on this site it would help if you did your homework. For tonight’s homework I assign a study of the Andre Polar Balloon expedition of 1897. You are to describe the sea-ice conditions the three men found, and also how, considering all three died before getting back to civilization after their balloon crashed, how it is we have pictures of their crashed balloon.

  1. I don’t think published studies should be disregarded based on a “hunch” only. When there’s no direct evidence of something, we need to use indirect evidence while taking care of the errors in the process. Anything else would be a vote for total ignorance on the subject. Peace.

      • Right, the balloonists landed on sea-ice in July 1897, walked South and camped on an ice-floe that eventually took them near the Island of Kvitoya. BTW last year on July 15th the ice-edge was far above the Svalbarg archipelago, see:

        The remains of the poor balloonists were found 30 years later and their photos were developed.

        BTW I use “study” in the scientific sense so I mean something that has been systematic, rigorous, well documented, peer reviewed and published. These are always way more valuable than anecdotes and/or opinions. This is not to say that you did not put effort in your posts! Studies frequently take months to years of concerted effort by a small group of people who are often working on several studies in parallel which makes it a full-time job for the most.

      • You only got a “C”. But I give you credit for at least going to Wikipedia, (though they have a real problem with bias concerning Global Warming.)

        You need to study a bit more about how fractured the ice was in 1897, and why it was they had to wait for the ice to drift south to White Island.

        Check out recent records of how the ice has drifted south in the same manner during recent summers, and the ice edge has even slid further south during the summer than it was in the winter.

        I like the way you use the word “study”, but fear you will be dismayed when you discover some studies are nowhere near as “rigorous” as you seem to believe. To be blunt, the writers seem more like disciples of W.C. Fields than of science:

        “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

  2. Without doubt, if she could hit it with a Magnum pistol, it was far too close. Not telling their hosts was a dangerous error. I know the Russians might react badly, because they would be blamed whatever, but other folk needed to know. I suspect there is more to this, as usual. Someone please tell me the bear just wanted its cute ears scratched…….

    • The bear must have snuck up without the guide, (who is suppose to be on guard with a rifle), seeing it. Maybe the guide didn’t want it widely known that he failed to protect his customers. Good thing that woman had her own sidearm. Wonder how she got it past airport security.

      Inquiring minds want to know…

  3. I got my info from the excellent coffee-table book “The Arctic – The Complete Story” by Richard Sale.

    The balloonists saw an incredible small fraction of the ice surface (not thickness) and there seemed to be more ice than today. Point measurement in any case.

    • I haven’t seen that book. Check out Richard Sale’s bibliography, and then go to his sources. I have a hope you are on the right track.

      It is OK to have preconceptions. However you are a sort of detective, and should keep your eyes wide open for clues that do not fit the narrative.
      Remember that a detective doesn’t care if 99 clues fit the narrative, if one clue doesn’t fit the story. (The thing about Truth is that it doesn’t have to make anything up, so every clue fits.)

      I have an advantage because I know what it is like to sail a sailboat with all modern gadgets such as depth-sounders and GPS and even the engine broken down, and therefore have an idea of the dead-reckoning involved when these gutsy sailors explored. (Nansen had his watch stop, so he couldn’t even get longitude with his sextant, and also a sextant is useless when it is cloudy for a week.)

      Keep in mind that they were coming off the Little Ice Age, so you expect the ice to be thicker and less mobile. Like I said, it is OK to have preconceptions. What I expected was for the ice to at least be as thick and rigid as it was in 1979. Then you start to read of open water far to the north, around 1815. Things simply don’t add up. You don’t need to measure with calipers when a single clue fails to fit the narrative, and there are many misfits in the Global Warming narrative, once you start to roll over the rocks.

      Keep in mind that I approach things as a historian, and historians can be very annoying and nitpicky. They draw a very black line between “fact” and “lore”.

      Personally I find historians frustrating, because they refuse to accept certain tales in sagas without archaeological evidence, and then even evidence can have several explanations. For example, they refused to believe Vikings sailed up to Ellesmere Island, until a single thread was discovered that was made of goat’s hair, and even then they said an Eskimo might have brought it north. It’s a real Man-from-Missouri attitude.

      I have been sifting through all the literature about Vikings since my Dad whetted my interest when I was a small boy in the 1950’s, and I’m very well acquainted with the hard facts, as well as some delightful baloney. Therefore, when I first became aware of charts and graphs that attempted to “erase the Medieval Warm Period” (around 15-20 years ago) I was extremely interested, because I was aware of the wealth of study being refuted.

      My conclusion is that there indeed was a Medieval Warm Period and indeed was a Little Ice Age, but both periods experienced considerable swings in temperature, and in levels of sea-ice.

      I don’t have the time to write about this stuff as much as I’d like to. For example, I want to study an episode in the early 1800’s when a huge amount of the sea-ice was disgorged through Fram Strait, (perhaps half the entirety of the Arctic Ocean), chilling the North Atlantic and littering the coast of Ireland with bergs. Instead I have to earn my living running after small children at my farm.

      Considering I have so little time I would prefer it if you only came to visit this site with points you yourself can make. Don’t ask me to read an entire study. Instead give me a synopsis, and keep it short.

      As far as dismissing the eye-witness accounts of gutsy sailors as mere “point measurements” goes, you are quite correct. They indeed are lone individuals at a single point in time upon a vast planet in a huge universe. But if you dismiss them you miss a lot, for they saw what we can’t.

      • True, that was the end of the LIA so indeed one would expect the ice to be thicker than now. The area around Svalbard is heavily affected by ocean currents that are themselves variable.

        The episode in the early 1800’s is interesting, I wonder if it was also glacier icebergs or only sea ice…? Does this event have a name?

        For historical sea-ice considerations one can consider energy conservation if the state of the weather back then is known (should work well in the Northern Hemisphere for 1930-1940). If there wasn’t enough heat available to melt thousands of cubic kilometres of sea ice we can deduce that rapid melting did not take place. This of course works only when enough historical weather data exist to be used in physical weather-models (not climate-models).

    • It is difficult to date ice-shelves, as they are in essence extensions of glaciers. The seaside edge is constantly breaking off and being replenished by glaciers pouring off the land. Part of the ice-shelf that was far up a fjord a hundred years ago may have slowly moved out to the edge, while the original edge is long gone. Also there is little in the way of organic matter in the ice up on the north side of Ellesmere Island, so radio-carbon-dating the ice can be problematic.

      I think it was Derek Mueller who came up with the estimation of 3000 years, back when a chunk of the Ward Park ice-shelf broke off. That was back in 2008. Right away there was debate about whether the former margin of the ice had been reestabished 3000 years ago, at the end of the Holocene optimum, or 500 years ago, at the end of the Medieval Warm Period. Here is a picture of the Ward Park chunk breaking off in 2008.

      (Notice the southern fjords of Elsemere Island are ice-free in the summer, but the northern ones feeding into the ice shelves are not)

      All the Ward Park chunks together added up to 8 square miles. The 1817 event mentioned east of Greenland was estimated at 180,000 square miles. It may have contained big bergs from glaciers and ice-shelves, but I think it was largely pack ice of the sort that gets crushed up against the north coast of Greenland to this day, because I think it contained wood, which has to drift across from the deltas of Russian rivers on the Transpolar Drift.

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