Oslo, Norway — Three unarmed Polish researchers stranded on a remote Arctic island were rescued by helicopter as polar bears were closing in on them, officials said Wednesday.
The hairsbreadth escape took place on an island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago, about 650 miles from the North Pole.
"It was the worst imaginable situation. They were cold and wet, had no equipment or weapons, and were surrounded by hungry polar bears," said Peter Braaten of the Svalbard governor's office.
The men had been shipwrecked at the edge of a tiny bay between two glaciers for 15 hours before the helicopter arrived, he said.
The three were aboard the Polish research ship Horyzont when they set out in a small inflatable boat to pick up equipment on one of the islands.
"Their boat capsized, and they lost all their equipment and weapons," Braaten told The Associated Press. He said they swam and clambered over chunks of floating ice to get to the island of Egdeoya.