The extraordinary story of an Alaskan miner who survived a bear attack but was then subjected to a week of torment by the animal has emerged.
The miner was found by chance after a coastguard rescue team saw him stumble out of lone shack around 40 miles north of Nome. The pilot had adjusted the chopper’s route slightly to avoid some cloud and, through the break in the sky, the man came into view waving in distress.
Part of the hut’s roof – where the miner managed to scrawl SoS – was ripped off and the man was in bandages.
Co-pilot Lt AJ Hammac said: “He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while.
"We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere. He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.”
The ordeal of the miner was first reported in the New York Times, which described the story as “a weeklong ordeal that could pass as a sequel to The Revenant”, the film starring Leonardo di Caprio as a lone pelt hunter immersed in a frozen, isolated existence.
The miner, who was in his 50s or 60s, first encountered the bear when he was attacked and dragged down to the river.
Armed with a pistol, he managed to escape but was attacked repeatedly over the course of a week. By the time he was rescued, he had just two rounds of ammunition left.
“He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days,” Lt Cmdr Jared Carbajal, one of the pilots of the coast guard helicopter, said.
He was rescued by chance given the route change of the helicopter, which had been on its way from Kotzebue to Nome to take some scientists to search for dead whales, walruses and seals at the time.
Commander Carbajal said the Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter had altered its course by about a mile when the the co-pilot clocked the distressed miner stumbling out of his shack, waving his arms.
“He said, ‘Hey, there’s a guy down there and he’s waving at us,’” Commander Carbajal said.
“I said, ‘Is he waving with one hand or two hands?’”
After agreeing it was a two-handed distress signal, the helicopter descended.
“If we would have been in the next river valley over we would have totally missed him,” the pilot said.
The man is now recovering from his ordeal.
Petty Officer First Class Ali Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard in Alaska, said it was unusual for a person to have several encounters with the same bear. She said the man’s situation had become increasingly dire.
“He only had two rounds left. I’d imagine you’d be a little loopy after not sleeping for so long.”