Solar Eclipse: Polar Bear Attacks Tourist in Norway's Arctic

Image: File picture taken on February 25, 2008 showing a polar bear sign outside the arctic town of Longyearbyen, in Norway
File picture taken on February 25, 2008 showing a polar bear sign outside the arctic town of Longyearbyen, in Norway. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL SANNUM LAUTENDANIEL SANNUM LAUTEN / AFP - Getty Images

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OSLO - A Czech tourist suffered slight injuries when a polar bear attacked him in a tent on an Arctic island off Norway on Thursday, the eve of a total solar eclipse that has drawn thousands of visitors.

Jakub Moravec, camping with five other tourists on a skiing and snowscooter trip, was flown by helicopter to hospital in Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, with injuries to his arm, chest and face.

"I am happy, fine," Moravec, 37, told NRK public television from his hospital bed, saying he awoke to find the bear in the tent and fought to fend it off before a colleague drove the bear away by shooting and injuring it.

The bear, which had got through a fence put up by the tourists around their camp, was later shot dead by rescue crews.

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Moravec said he only felt scared afterwards -- at the time, his thoughts were only "to save my head". He hoped to be out of hospital in time to see the eclipse on Friday morning.

The Norwegian Arctic islands of Svalbard, about 800 miles from the North Pole, and the Faroe Islands to the south are the only places on land from which viewers will be able to see the moon totally block the sun on Friday.

A partial eclipse will be visible across parts of Africa, Europe and Asia, briefly disrupting production of solar power in Europe as the sun dims.

Svalbard has warned tourists of the risks of bears and of bone-chilling temperatures, expected to be around zero on Friday, with partly cloudy skies.

The archipelago is expecting about 2,000 visitors for the eclipse, on top of about 2,500 residents.

"It is an ever-present danger," Ronny Brunvoll, head of the Visit Svalbard organization, said of the risks of polar bear attack.

Brunvoll told Reuters that the number of overnight visitors would be the highest in Longyearbyen's history -- far above numbers who come for a popular Arctic ski marathon. Hotels have been booked for years and many private homes have rented rooms.

- Reuters