A group of British climbers, cut off on their route by rising floodwaters, have been rescued from polar bear territory in Greenland by pure chance.
The five men, who were planning to conquer the Stauning Alps in the northeast of the country, spent two days and nights next to a flooded river they had crossed on foot shortly before.
Known to be in an area populated with polar bears, with little food left and a broken satellite phone, they were finally rescued when they managed to attract the attention of a helicopter pilot who happened to be taking geologists to a remote location. The team were found shortly after a 17 year-old British boy died and four other people were injured in a polar bear attack on an Arctic expedition in Norway.
While stranded, one member of the team attempted the crossing and was briskly swept away before managing to clamber back onto the bank. The leader of the Scottish Mountaineering Club team, Colwyn Jones, said afterwards that he believes any further attempts to cross the river would have been fatal.
The group used a reflective blanket, a small mirror and a rifle they had with them to protect against polar bears and to attract the pilot’s attention. When they made their journey away from their ill-fated mission, they saw a group of bears just six miles from where they were camped.
“There wasn’t any food left and we didn’t know how long we were going to be stuck there for.
The only things left were caramel wafers and logs and we were extremely grateful to have them,” Jones told The Scotsman. “It was purely by chance that the pilot happened to fly over the valley we were stuck in that day. It is fair to say we were all extremely pleased to see him,” he added.