At 3:30 a.m. the campers woke to screams of pure terror, screams that came all the way from the gut.
“Help me! Help me!”
Gross‘s hands flew to unzip his sleeping bag and he grabbed the flare gun from the boot near his head. He had no idea what was going on, but he knew it wasn’t good.
From the little window of her tent Chase saw the shape of a polar bear just a few feet away, standing over the tent beside her. It was down on all fours, eye-level with Chase, huge and white except for the black of its eyes and nose. It turned and stared right at her.
“RICH!” she screamed.
Chase grabbed her flare gun while Castañeda-Mendez raced out of the tent. The bear was just a few yards away, biting at the tent next door and then dragging it into the darkness.
Gross ran into the grass in his long underwear and aimed the flare gun toward the bear as it started running. It was a moving target, now 75 feet down the beach, heading west, parallel to the shore of the fjord. Something was dangling from its mouth.
Isenberg shot out of his tent. Rodman scrambled for his glasses and rushed outside, too, still in his underwear and bare feet. Frankel fought frantically with the zipper of her tent fly. Finally, she ripped it open and ran out in her long underwear.
They could see only a few yards away. But they saw enough to know that the thing in the bear’s mouth wasn’t a thing at all. It was one of them—it was Dyer.
Gross aimed the flare gun toward the bear and fired. The flare erupted and then a second brilliant bright light exploded in front of the bear. It dropped Dyer and took off running.
But the bear didn’t run far. After another 75 feet or so, it stopped and turned around. Dyer lay crumpled on the ground. It was coming back for its prize.
Gross reloaded and fired again. This time, the bear ran off into the distance.
Nachvak Fjord echoed with the group’s screams and cries. They were one part fear, one part desperate attempt to keep the bear from coming back.
They had to get to Dyer. But the light was bad and there was no telling whether the bear might come back. Rodman remembers seeing the fence sparking on the ground.
Frankel screamed Dyer’s name, but he didn’t respond.
Next: Chapter 7