Fake news alert: 17-year-old pic of polar bear visiting Norwegian vessel passed off as new
A 17-year-old photo taken aboard a Norwegian research vessel has been given a new life, much to the disappointment of the Norwegian Polar Institute.
The Daily Mail on Tuesday published the photo of “the astonishing moment a polar bear popped its head into the kitchen of a boat in the Arctic for a bite to eat” saying that the photo had “recently” been taken aboard the Lance, a Norwegian research ship.
Daily Mail credited Reddit as the inspiration for its story, pointing to a post from two months ago in which user ‘Johnny_love’ claimed his “uncle, who works on an Arctic research vessel, got an unexpected visitor today”. That post generated 2,200 comments on Reddit and eventually drew the attention of Daily Mail and others.
But the Norwegian Polar Institute told public broadcaster NRK on Wednesday that the photo is actually from 17 years ago and that researchers are not happy to see it circulating the internet.
“That this picture is being spread with that accompanying information is not good for us,” institute spokesman Øystein Mikkelborg told NRK.
He said that the photo was indeed taken upon the Lance, but that the man in the picture is now retired and was never a researcher. Likewise, the research vessel has been docked near Tromsø for the entire winter.
But most importantly, Mikkelborg said that the institute would never be part of feeding a polar bear like that today.
“The photo creates a very unfortunate impression of the Polar Institute. The Svalbard environmental protection act is very clear about not affecting wildlife by trying to attract the animals or feed them,” he said. “In general, we should not disturb the animals and let nature take its course.”
“When that photo was taken 17 years ago, there were somewhat different rules and the crew must have seen an opportunity to feed the bear and take the photo. But the rules today are that one shouldn’t do something like that,” he added.
Mikkelborg told NRK that he has absolutely no idea why the photo is getting a second life so many years later.