Life In Russia Is Way More Hardcore Than Life In America

If you needed another reason to avoid Russia, you can add "polar bear siege" to your list. That's the absurdly far-fetched disaster-movie premise a team of five Russian meteorologists just lived through in real life, and somehow it barely made news here in the United States.

The scientists -- whom we can only assume were a rag-tag group of the country's best but most bear-vulnerable climate experts -- were dispatched to the weather station on Troynoy Island way up in the Arctic Circle, 2,800 miles from Moscow. Their assignment should have been just like all the others: Get in, collect the valuable weather data, and then spend the time until you leave imagining which co-worker you'd trust the least if some shit like in The Thing broke out. Little did they know that Hollywood line of thinking would be the exact frame of mind they'd need to be in, because their lives were about to turn into what could just as easily pass for the plot of a Liam Neeson movie.

Wikipedia
aka Taken With Wolves

It all started the exact same way any film involving a mysterious killer does -- with a dead animal. In this case, the weather station guard dog, who was undoubtedly a good boy but clearly no match for the beast it encountered. Given the Arctic environment, I'm assuming every mind in the room immediately landed on a Yeti being the most likely culprit. I'm not sure if it's better or worse that, but instead of a mythical snow monster, the killer in question was 10 hungry polar bears and their also-hungry cubs. Not only did they surround the building, one of the females even took to sleeping underneath the station's windows, ensuring they were trapped, man. Trapped like rats. Rats trapped by polar bears.

Whoever provisioned the station had the foresight to stock it with enough food to last the team a year. So on the food front, they were safe. However, on the energy front, the team was very extremely not safe: The diesel generator for the facility was housed in another building. That meant they had to go out into the blinding white, which was filled with 10 massive death machines set on eating delicious scientists, so they could refuel the station's generator.

Pixabay
"They'll need to charge their phones eventually."

They used signal flares to scare some of the bears off temporarily, but those ran out quickly. With that, Operation Tiptoe Past The Polar Bears So We Have Energy was under way. It didn't take long to realize that plan would become way less sustainable as the bears got hungrier and hungrier. Since it would take a month for a specially dispatched ship to reach them, things did not look good for the researchers.

Just then, at midnight, came salvation. It was the Akademik Tryoshnikov, the flagship of Russia's research expedition fleet, riding in like the goddamn cavalry. In the kind of twist you normally get to scoff at only in movies that are completely unbelievable, they just happened to be in the area, heard about the polar bear crisis, and decided to stop near Troynoy Island to pick up some supplies and send help. Like a literal deus ex machina, they landed a helicopter near the station to scare off the bears, hopped out to quickly resupply the scientists with more flares and three puppies, and then immediately took off again.

Pixabay
Ar ... are the puppies ... for the bears?

Oh, were you expecting someone to be saved? Keep in mind that this isn't an American action movie. It's taking place in Russia. Nobody is getting saved here. You don't get to leave your scientific mission just because you survived the bear siege. There's still work to be done, comrade. The bears are still there. The bears are still hungry. The scientists now have more flares, but by no means do they have enough flares. You know that because there are still flares other places in the world.

That's not to say there aren't any Hollywood-type twists to be found here. In almost any movie that involves a killer, at some point we learn what's motivating them to murder and, more often than not, it's something that invokes at least a little bit of sympathy in us. Maybe they were abused as cubs or they're being mind-controlled by some shady government operation. It could be anything.

In this case, it's not that these are particularly bloodthirsty polar bears who developed a taste for human flesh at some point and decided to form a murder celebration (a group of polar bears is called a celebration, Google it). No, they're actually trapped too, just like the scientists. Except the thing keeping them stuck where they are is global warming.

Pixabay
Not sure if you've seen the Arctic Circle recently, but it looks like this now, probably.

The bears normally leave the island during the summer, but this year the ice was too thin for them to leave, meaning they literally had no other choice but to hang around this weather station and hope the next piece of food that stumbles out has bad flare-gun aim. In other words, as usual, humankind is the real monster here.

So the scientists are safe for now and have resumed going out and taking meteorological observations, and the bears are trapped on the 27-kilometer-long island with them until late October, which is exactly how you'd end this movie if you wanted to leave open the possibility that there could be a sequel someday. Here's hoping those bears don't encounter any damaged nuclear warheads.

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Aaron Kheifets

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