To tame a polar bear
By: Ann Kristin Balto // Norwegian Polar Institute
Roald Amundsen feeding Marie, the polar bear cub, July 1920. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute
One day, during Roald Amundsen’s voyage through the Northeast Passage, Georg Kibisow from the Russian Trading Company came aboard Amundsen’s ship, the Maud. He brought along a polar bear cub that he had caught near Kolyma. He offered the cub to Amundsen, who bought it.
Roald Amundsen named the polar bear cub Marie. He gave her a lot of attention in the hope of taming her so she could pull a sledge. Marie features a lot in Amundsen’s expedition diary and he followed her development closely. Here is a sample of what Amundsen wrote:
It’s not easy to make friends with Marie, but it might work. I carry her now, whenever I want, but I have to make sure I hold onto her head so she can’t bite me. She is constantly fighting with the dogs. This little critter has no fear.
Amundsen gave Marie milk, which she appreciated. He was also able to stroke and groom her. It appears that several of the crew members also developed a good relationship with Marie, until one day Amundsen wrote that he had “chloroformed” the cub after she attacked him:
I chloroformed Marie to death this morning. I had to abandon any hopes of training her. After grooming and feeding her for a month, this morning, when I brought her milk, she came at me in a ferocious rage. In the hands of an experienced trainer she might have become a bit friendlier, but I had to give up.
Marie the polar bear cub was stuffed and is currently on display in Roald Amundsen’s home in Svartskog.
Check out: The Norwegian Polar Institute photo archive contains several pictures from Roald Amundsen’s expeditions:
This article was originally published by the Fram Forum