on spit mountainsMore than a year after the death of a 39-year-old Dutch camper on Spitsbergen as a result of a polar bear attack, the Norwegian authorities have closed the investigation into the drama.
The investigation shows that the campsite near Longyearbyen, where the Dutchman was killed, was not sufficiently protected against polar bears, Norwegian media report. Both the governor of Spitsbergen and the Norwegian Labor Inspectorate investigated the case. Despite the lack of security at the campground, the governor decided to close the investigation “because nothing criminal happened,” said Assistant Governor Sylvi Elvedahl.
Job Kootte died on August 28 last year after a polar bear attacked him at night while he was sleeping in his tent. The 39-year-old Amsterdammer had been manager of the campsite on the Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean for two years.
The Dutch owner was in shock when the police informed her about the drama. “In the 44 years that the campsite has been in existence, we have never experienced anything like this,” Michelle van Dijk told this site at the time. The two Dutchmen knew each other from the pop stage Paard van Troje in The Hague, which has been known as Het Paard since 2016.
Six others were staying at the campsite at the time of the attack. It concerned three Germans, a Norwegian, a Finn and an Italian. They were not injured, but were taken to hospital for psychological help. Bystanders shot the polar bear, after which the animal walked towards the nearby airport. He was found dead not much later in a parking lot.
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One and a half meter high wooden poles with power wire in between and reflective tape above it should keep polar bears away from the camping site. The construction of the electric fence is almost complete, as you can see in pictures on the site of the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK. ,,After two years, the time has finally come”, the Dutchman said relieved to the broadcaster last weekend. She decided in 2019 that the site needed to be fenced and ordered the fence with aluminum electric wire. According to her, the assembly had to be postponed, partly because of a shortage of professionals due to the corona pandemic.
According to her, the drama with Kootte was an unfortunate coincidence. Due to the corona pandemic, there was much less traffic to and from the airport. The crowds normally help keep polar bears at bay. To make matters worse, the polar bear approached the site from a rocky ledge, so the watchdogs didn’t notice him until it was already too late.
Many of the more than 2000 residents of Longyearbyen are skeptical about the electric fence of the camping area, according to the Norwegian broadcaster. They wonder if the power wires will actually keep the polar bears at bay. Van Dijk is aware of the skepticism but does not share it. “Scientists have also used electric fences on Spitsbergen in the past to keep polar bears away. This type is also widely used in Canada and the United States.”
The costs for the fence, in all 500,000 Norwegian kroner (more than 51,000 euros), were paid by the Dutch out of their own pocket. According to her, the power on the wires will be switched on when the campsite opens again, on June 1 next year.
Polar bear fatalities in Spitsbergen since 1971
1971: Norwegian radio operator Bjørn Tessem (27) killed on Bjørnøya (Bear Island)
1977: An Austrian student killed in the Magdalenefjord
1995: Norwegian Nina Jeanette Olaussen (22) killed while skiing on Platåberget outside Longyearbyen
1995: Norwegian ice pilot Helmer Kristensen (58) killed on Kiepertøya in Hinlopenstredet
2011: British student Horatio Chapple (17) killed at Von Postbreen
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