Marie the polar bear cub
In April 1920, when the Maud expedition was off Ayon Island in Siberia, Roald Amundsen met the local trader George Kibisow. Kibosow was originally from the Caucasus and worked for the local Russian trading company. Amundsen bought a mammoth tooth and 27 white fox skins from him, and was also offered a polar bear cub that Kibisow had captured a few weeks earlier. Amundsen named the cub Marie and tethered her to a box on the ice outside the ship. According to Amundsen, she liked lard, meat and milk, but when he tried to walk her on a leash, she was less than eager.
“Have had my first walk with today with Marie, who did not seem to find any pleasure in it. Resisted as far as she could, but had to be dragged by the superior force. Can already pat her without danger of losing fingers. She places no great value on it but completely turns her back on me. She likes lard best. She has not eaten fish yet,” wrote Amundsen in his diary on May 22, 1920 📜.
The next day he wrote: “It’s not easy to make friends with Marie, but it may happen. I carry her now, whenever I want, but then I have to make sure to hold her head otherwise she would bite. She is constantly feuding with the dogs. The little thing is not afraid.”📜
Gradually, Marie accepted more and more contact; she let herself be petted and cared for. In just a month, several of the crew had also established a good relationship with Marie, and Amundsen in particular often wrote about her in his diary. But on June 17, 1920, Marie’s training comes to an abrupt end. Amundsen wrote “Chloroformed Marie to put her down this morning. I had to give up all hope today of getting it trained. After having cared for and given it food for a month, when I came with milk to her in the morning, she came right at me in full rage. Under an experienced trainer she might become well-mannered, but I had to give it up. Hanssen has skinned her and W. will now wash and prepare the pelt. The skull is cleaned and hung out to dry. I will have her stuffed and set up at home.” 📜
Marie was stuffed and brought home to Svartskog. She sat at the top of the stairs at Uranienborg for several years, but was later moved into the study where she remains today. In August 1980, there was a burglary in which thieves took both Marie and a stuffed polar bear head. Fortunately, the stolen items were discovered lying in a bush by Østensjø, Oslo and returned to Uranienborg a few days later.