polar bear killed teen
The polar bear killed a 17-year-old boy and injured four others on an expedition to Svalbard, Norway Reuters

A leader of an Arctic expedition, in which a polar bear mauled a British teenager to death, said he tried to gouge out the bear's eyes.

Michael Reid from Plymouth told an inquest into the death of Horatio Chapple, 17, he went for the eyes of the animal to stop it from attacking him.

He said the animal turned on him and bit his head after his own attempts to shoot it failed.

"I remember the bear biting my head and I thought the weakest part is the eyes so I tried to take out the eyes with my fingers, but was unsuccessful," Reid said.

He had attempted to fire his rifle when he saw the bear laying on top of one of the teenagers.

"I cocked the rifle, took aim, aimed it carefully as I didn't want to shoot the YE (young explorer).

"Although it was close, I didn't want to injure the YE or worse," he said.

"So I took a carefully aimed shot at the bear in the chest area of the bear but the rifle didn't fire.

"I cocked the rifle again and took another attempt at an aimed shot at the bear."

When the bear finally moved off, he grabbed the rifle again and this time managed to shoot it dead.

It is believed his Mauser 98K rifle had a three-position safety catch mechanism in place preventing him from firing.

Reid told the inquest Chapple was a fantastic member of the team.

"One of the best, if not the best on the expedition. A fine young gentleman with amazing potential," he said.

Chapple was killed after the polar bear "ripped open" his tent and dragged him out, causing mortal wounds to his head.

Andrew Ruck, 27, Patrick Flinders, 17, and Scott Bennell-Smith, 16, were also seriously injured by the bear during the camping trip in the remote Svalbard islands in Norway.

The inquest into Chapple's death is expected to conclude on Friday (11 July).