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article imageArctic explorer wakes up to find his head in polar bear's jaws

By Laura Trowbridge     Aug 11, 2010 in Travel
An explorer was asleep in his tent on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard when he awoke to find a polar bear had him by the head in the beginning stages of a vicious attack.
Sebastian Plur Nilssen, 23, was with his expedition partner, Ludvig Fjeld, in a tent protected by a trip-wire attached to an early warning flare. Despite the caution, the huge polar bear was able to get inside and grab Nilssen's head before the men woke up.
Nilssen was dragged away by the bear, screaming, while the bear was viciously shaking him from side to side in "a technique typically used on its usual prey of seals."
The bear barely missed a main artery in Nilssen's neck, but did manage to puncture a lung.
Nilssen told Sky News: "It was so strong I could not fight, I grabbed for my shotgun and tried to shoot it but [the polar bear] had snapped [the gun] in half.
"It must have been only a minute I was in his jaws but it felt like forever.
"It was a big bear, at one point it stood up on its back legs with me in its mouth, I was 2.5 meters off the ground and it seemed very high."
Ludvig Fjeld came to his partner's rescue by finding their other gun and taking aim at the large predator.
"I was about 20 or 25 meters from the bear and it had Sebastian in its mouth, I was very worried I did not want to hit Sebastian as well. That would have been a really bad day for him," joked Fjeld.
"When I fired the first shot, the bear dropped him, but I had to fire four more to make sure it was dead."
Nilssen, bleeding profusely, was airlifted and rushed to a hospital for an emergency three-hour surgery.
Nilssen said the bear was probably hungry because polar bears usually will not attack humans in this manner. He said he holds no anger against the bear.
"I must be one of the only people in the world who can say when people ask me about my scars, 'I got them in a fight with a polar bear'," Nilssen said.
Polar bears are protected under strict conservation laws and can only be shot in self defence.
More about Polar bear, Attack, Explorer, Arctic
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