The polar bear that has attacked the English camp in Tempelfjord, leaving one 17-year young man dead and several ones injured, was an old, mal-nutrioned animal that suffered from severe toothache. According to specialists, it is unknown if pain makes bears more aggressive but it is safe to assume that starving bears are likely to be more dangerous than well-fed ones.
What is known is that all technical safety means failed to work in Tempelfjord: The alarm fence did not trigger, and both signal pistol and rifle failed as well.
The issue of the alarm fence has been matter of debate for some time, regarding both reliablity and availability. The best system is of military origin, but soon out of stock in Longyearbyen. Retailers and Sysselmannen have tried to get access to more supplies, but so far without success.
The question is why the rifle failed during the first four attempts to fire it. One option is incorrect handling of the safety pin. Next to the positions »safe« and »fire«, rifles of the type Mauser, as the one used in Tempelfjord, have a third position, which allows to repeat, but not to fire. If the safety pin was accidentally in this position, then any attempt to fire and repeat would only result in emptying the magasine without actually firing, as happened in the camp. If this is the reason for what happened, is at the present time speculative.
Only when an already injured group leader managed to find one of the cartridges on the ground and re-loaded the rifle, he managed to shoot the bear with one shot from a close distance, thus preventing even greater damage.
Rifles for polar bear protection. Mausers middle and right.