2011 Svalbard polar bear attack

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On 5 August 2011, a starving polar bear in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard attacked a party of school children,[1] organised by the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES), who had camped near the Von Post glacier, some 25 miles (40 km) from the settlement of Longyearbyen.[2] The bear was reported as being starving and emaciated.[1]

The BSES party of eighty members had planned their trip to run from 23 July to 28 August – the trip was cut short after the incident.[3] BSES, a youth charity, was founded in 1932 by Surgeon Commander George Murray Levick, a member of Captain Scott's expedition of 1910–13.

Seventeen-year-old Horatio Chapple, a pupil of Eton College, was with a party of twelve at the time of the attack, and was killed by the bear.[4] Four others were hurt, two seriously, and all were flown to Tromsø on mainland Norway for treatment. Chapple's grandfather, Sir John Lyon Chapple, was formerly the president of BSES.[5]

The bear was shot dead by one of the expedition's leaders, Spike Reid, who himself suffered severe head and face injuries.[6]


Police later disclosed that the organisers of the expedition had a gun which failed to fire four times because it was in safe position and had not assigned a night watchman.[7] Leaders of such expeditions are advised that camps should be protected by at least two of the following: trip wires that detonate deterrent explosives, lookouts through the night or guard dogs; of those options, the camp used trip wires alone, but they failed to trigger.[7]

The Sysselmann (local authority) requires a risk assessment for any camping trip such as this, which must then be approved by the Sysselmann.[8]

In September 2011, it was announced that a high court judge would chair an inquiry into the death.[9]

In March 2012, following an enquiry by Norwegian investigators, officials ruled that the attack could have been prevented if the expedition members had stayed in cabins instead of tents, had used guard-dogs and had deployed someone on polar bear watch. However, since none of these additional safety precautions were required by law, it was ruled that the expedition leaders would not face prosecution.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b "Bear that mauled British teen was starving". thestar.com. 7 August 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  2. ^ Matt Walker (5 August 2011). "Polar bear kills British boy in Arctic". BBC News. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  3. ^ BSES website. Accessed 8 August 2011
  4. ^ Jeevan Vasagar (8 August 2011). "Polar bear attack investigation begins". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Family tribute to bear attack boy". Evening Standard (London). 5 August 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  6. ^ Harriet Alexander; Richard Gray; Adam Lushe (7 August 2011). "How Arctic leader shot dead killer polar bear". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  7. ^ a b James Orr; Richard Alleyne (7 August 2011). "Norway polar bear attack: failings that left Horatio Chapple at bear's mercy". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  8. ^ Governor of Svalbard "Notification and Insurance". 13 March 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Judge to hold inquiry into fatal polar bear attack". BBC News. 10 September 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  10. ^ Ian Sparks; Lee Moran (3 February 2012). "Death of Eton schoolboy savaged by polar bear COULD have been prevented... but Arctic expedition leaders told they won't face criminal charges". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  11. ^ Richard Orange (2 March 2012). "Schoolboy polar bear death 'preventable' but tour leaders face no charges". Daily Telegraph. Telegraph. Retrieved 2 March 2012.

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