Polar bear attacks cruise ship employee near North Pole

Fred Gunner

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Polar bears are known to be "masters of their environment" due to having no natural enemies.

A polar bear was shot and killed after attacking a cruise ship employee who was leading tourists off a ship on an Arctic archipelago on Saturday, officials said.

The attack took place after the MS Bremen cruise ship landed on the most northern island of the Svalbard archipelago, a region located between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway said on Twitter.

The German Hapag Lloyd Cruises company, which operates the MS Bremen, told The Associated Press that two polar bear guards from their ship went on the island and one of them "was attacked by a polar bear and injured on his head."

The polar bear was then shot dead "in an act of self-defense" by the second guard, spokeswoman Negar Etminan told the AP.

The worker, a designated polar bear guard, suffered a head injury as he led tourists off the ship and was unresponsive when he was airlifted for medical treatment, Sky News reported. Etminan said the victim did not appear to suffer life-threatening injuries.

According to Hapag Lloyd Cruises, all of its cruise ships traveling in the region are obliged to have polar bear guards aboard.

Arctic tourism to the region has risen sharply in the past few years and is now in high season, as people travel to visit the remote terrain, glaciers, reindeer and polar bears. A Longyearbyen port schedule reviewed by the AP showed that 18 cruise ships will be docking at the Arctic port in the next week.

This was not the first time a polar bear attack took place in Norway. In 2011, a British student died on a school expedition to Svalbard after an animal dragged him away by the head, according to Sky News.

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