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The polar expedition to Spitzbergen in the Netherlands to study the effects of climate change has been devastated by the presence of hungry polar bears, broadcaster NOS reports.

Polar bears are trapped inland due to the rapidly melting ice, which is itself a climate change effect, putting a strong team of 50 scientists and 50 tourists at risk.

Aside from polar bears, strong winds and fog make landing difficult, and crew members are also hit by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Investigators had to shorten their fieldwork due to the discovery of polar bears on Saturday. According to the rules of the expedition, scientists cannot work when polar bears are nearby. So far, scientists have only been able to land three times.

Expedition leader Jan Bergers told the broadcaster that there were more polar bears than expected. “They missed the bus, so to speak. When the sea ice recedes, bears prefer to stay on the ice, but a rapid melting process caught them.

This is bad news for mothers and cubs who usually live on goose meat but have to find other food sources such as goose eggs, reindeer, and even grass, Bergers said.

7 years

The final destination of the expedition is Edge Island, where rapid climate change is affecting flora and fauna.

This year’s voyage is a follow-up to the 2015 expedition to the region. Investigators want to keep track of what has changed over the last seven years.

The expedition will continue until July 22nd.

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