Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

A NIMBY Polar Bear?

Back in 2007, an International Polar Year (IPY) project  to establish a network of continuous GPS stations (dubbed “GNET”) in Greenland was launched as part of the U.S. contribution to the international Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET) consortium (Mike Bevis, Ohio State University, is the Lead PI). In addition to the GPS stations, the PIs of the project set out to collect seismic data. They plan to integrate it with GPS data and use the information to help scientists model Arctic ice loss over the past 10,000 years—since the last major ice age.

This map shows the GNET stations ringing Greenland. Read on to find out what happened to KAGZ, near the northwestern corner of the island. Image by GNET

This map shows the GNET stations ringing Greenland. Read on to find out what happened to KAGZ, near the northwestern corner of the island. Image by GNET

It is an ambitious project that enjoys wide support—with the exception of the local fauna. It appears that a resident polar bear at a GNET site established in 2007 called KAGZ didn’t want it in his “back yard.” Specifically, the bear preferred to munch on the highly technical equipment instead of let it do its job and indirectly work toward protecting the bear’s melting habitat.

A mangled antenna reveals a polar bear visit. Photo: Mike Willis

A mangled antenna reveals a polar bear visit. Photo: Finn Bo Madsen

There was evidence the bear tried to smash the powercables from the solar panels with his paw. Photo: Mike Willis

There was evidence the bear tried to smash the power cables from the solar panels with his paw. Photo: Finn Bo Madsen

Marks on the there were marks on the antenna radome indicate the bear either scratched his back on or had been trying to hug the antenna. Photo: Mike Willis

Marks on the antenna radome indicate the bear either scratched his back on or had been trying to hug the antenna. Photo: Finn Bo Madsen

And though it may not be apparent to the untrained eye, the bear also tinkered with the power cables from the auxiliary battery boxes. Said Danish colleague Finn Bo Madsen of Technical University of Denmark, who traveled to the site to install a gravity meter and subsequently was able to bring KAGZ back online: “My compliments to the cable design and make since they hold and were still working.”

Finally, we don’t really think the bear had a grudge against the site—or even the intellectual capacity to understand its function. Most likely, it had an itch and found a place to scratch it.