•  Rinse. Wash. Repeat. •  To the Pole! •  Just a Box of Games, Box 4 •  About Damn Time •  Fortune •  Once More Unto the Breach •  I Surrender •  Just a Box of Games, Box 3 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 2 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 1 •  Gun Belt •  A Man, A Man, A Plan, Not Approved •  Come Home, George McGovern •  Break a Leg: Twelve Ten Twelve •  Callback to the Blog Motto •  Hueydan •  Essential Truths •  Syrian Chaos •  Don't Cross the Beams! •  Go Right Ahead

all items  RSS feed
multimedia-only RSS feed
politics-only RSS feed
RSS 2.0

©2003-2014 Darrel Plant

Politics and Media
Atrios
Daily Kos
First Draft
This Modern World
Dennis Perrin
A Tiny Revolution
The Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars

Multimedia
Unity
diamondTearz
iPhoneKicks
Portland Area Game Developer Interest Group
Touch Arcade
BIT-101
712
Dean's Director Tutorials & Resources
MXNA: Director
Director Online Users Group

Music
Stan Ridgway
They Might Be Giants
The Stranglers
The Tubes
The Dickies
Ray Davies

People & Stuff
Phillip Kerman
The Lonely Robot
Wexford Girl
Extraordinary Days
Ken Jennings
Bob Harris


«  Rinse. Wash. Repeat.  |   Main
Warning: mysql_data_seek() [function.mysql-data-seek]: Offset -1 is invalid for MySQL result index 3 (or the query data is unbuffered) in /home/dplant/darrelplant.com/blog_item.php on line 105


»  August 11, 2014

What the...?  

To the Pole!

“FATEFUL CHOICE  [Robert Falcon] Scott’s ship, Terra Nova, carried Siberian dogs and Manchurian ponies, which required bulky fodder and close care. Scandinavian snowshoes of twisted cane helped some ponies; those without waded up to their knees in snow. The best means of transportation was much debated: [Roald] Amundsen’s original Arctic plans had included harnessing polar bears.”
—photo caption, “The Man Who Took the Prize” by Caroline Alexander,
National Geographic, September 2011

“‘It is quite true,’ said Capt. Amundsen, ‘that I intend to try polar bears to haul my sleds. Hagenbeck is training four bears and guarantees that they will be perfectly docile.”
—”Bears Will Draw Him to the Pole”, The New York Times, October 16, 1907

*  *  *
September 1, 1907
Karl Hagenbeck, Hamburg

Herr Hagenbeck,

The polar bear show put on by your circus (which I made a point of seeing while on a recent speaking engagement in Belgium) is very intriguing, particularly the act where some of your bears—75 polar bears!—drew carts. What possibility would there be that I could persuade you to train several bears to draw heavy sleds for an attempt to reach the North Pole? I spoke to your brother Wilhelm about the feasibility of such a plan but despite the obvious facility of the many bears in the circus, he seemed rather dubious and referred the matter to you as the proprietor of your animal purveying operation.

I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience,

Capt. Roald Amundsen
Oslo

*  *  *

 

September 15, 1907
Capt. Roald Amundsen, Oslo

Dear Captain Amundsen,

Your letter finally caught up to me; the plan sounds eminently practicable and the scientific nature of the expedition would bolster my proposal for the Hagenbeck Tierpark as more than a mere zoological garden or circus immobile. Wilhelm is the master in the art of training wild beasts but he is sometimes cautious regarding the introduction of new tricks and routines. I shall cable him to move this project forward or—as you Norwegians might say—Fram.

Sincerely,

Karl Hagenbeck
Hamburg

*  *  *

15 SEP
WILHELM HAGENBECK VIENNA
NEED BEARS PULL SLEDS AMUNDSEN STOP RETURN HAMBURG NOW BRING CASTANG 25 BEARS STOP

KARL
HAMBURG

*  *  *

16 SEP
KARL HAGENBERG HAMBURG
BEARS AND REUBEN EN ROUTE STOP CANNOT LEAVE SELF STOP MUST REARRANGE PROGRAM STOP

WILHELM
VIENNA

*  *  *

September 16, 1907
Karl Hagenbeck, Hamburg

Dear Brother,

I could not in telegram form express the concern I have regarding Amundsen’s plan. He is truly a great explorer but I fear he knows nothing of undomesticated animals save their shooting for safety or ration. His intent is to drift in his ship with the polar ice pack for a period of five to six years then sled for the pole, counting on the Winter hibernation cycle of the bears to reduce the need for provision over the years. As you well know, our circus performs throughout the Winter in Northern climes and the polar bears never hibernate. They do not hibernate if there is a ready food source, such as is available at the Circus Hagenbeck. Presumably, the members of Amundsen’s expedition would also provide a fine Winter food source. At least for a brief time.

Sincerely,

Wilhelm
Vienna

*  *  *

September 20, 1907

Reuben,

I apologize for leaving town before your return with the bears, but a shipment of animals is due to Paris this week. I have left instructions regarding the particulars of Amundsen’s needs. Proceed with the bears you have brought; he will want the best half dozen of them.

Karl Hagenbeck
Hamburg

 

*  *  *

September 22, 1907
Karl Hagenbeck, Hamburg

Herr Hagenbeck,

I see your knowledge of polar expedition is up to date. Yes, we are attempting to secure Nansen’s ship Fram for the venture; it is integral to our plans.

Fantastic news regarding the bears! How long will the training take? I will be leaving for New York via the Oscar II on a lecturing and fund-raising tour early next month. If we can complete negotiations prior to my sailing, our joint venture can be announced in Europe and America before my return, which would no doubt pique the interest of newspapers and expedition underwriters. Please cable any progress reports and let us finalize a contract.

Amundsen
Oslo

 

*  *  *

28 SEP
CAPT. AMUNDSEN, OSLO
HAGENBECK IN PARIS STOP CONTRACT ENROUTE STOP 8 TO 12 WKS TRAINING STOP

REUBEN CASTANG
HAMBURG

 

*  *  *

October 23, 1907
Karl Hagenbeck, Hamburg

Dear Brother,

Reuben writes that sled training is going well. He hasn’t mentioned how training not to eat people in the Winter goes.

The vision of Amundsen’s pet bears pulling his team to victory in the race for the pole has certainly fired up the imaginations of the popular press. The papers say he is off to America for a seven-month tour to spread the polar ursine gospel.

The gaps left in the performance schedule by the bears working with Reuben have been bridged. I will be returning to Hamburg myself for the final stages of training.

I am worried, Karl. The training of polar bears poses particular difficulties. They are crafty, suspicious creatures apt to turn on the trainer with the least warning. Only a few of our bears truly enjoy their routines. Constant vigilance is our only safety with them in the confines of the Circus. God only knows what would happen over the course of several years on their home territory in the polar ice fields. Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea of what would happen, as well.

Sincerely,

Wilhelm
Vienna

P.S. With Amundsen overseas until the summer, what are we going to do with two dozen bears trained to pull ice sleds? Can I have them back with the Circus?

*  *  *

6 DEC
KARL HAGENBECK HAMBURG
RECEIVED NEWS TRAINING COMPLETE STOP SENDING PRELIM TEAM HAMBURG STOP WHEN BEARS WAKE UP SPRING SEND TRIAL RUN STOP

AMUNDSEN
SAN FRANCISCO

*  *  *

February 24, 1908
Capt. Roald Amundsen, Minneapolis

My Dear Captain,

I do hope this missive finds you in a timely fashion; your Oslo office gave us your expected itinerary and I have attempted to allow for trans-Atlantic transit time as well as movement through the American mail system.

Lieut. Nilson and his team have embarked with six bears and customized sleds for Hammerfest, per your orders. I am somewhat ashamed to have to admit, however, that neither my brother Wilhelm or our lead bear-keeper Reuben Castang was willing to accompany them to the edge of the Arctic, so your men are on their own as to the care, maintenance, and management of the bears. I did my best to persuade each man to take the reins—as it were—but they were rather adamant in their refusal and I do not have the gift with their wills that they have with those of the bears.

To the Pole!

Karl Hagenbeck
Hamburg

*  *  *

April 1, 1908
Capt. Roald Amundsen, New Orleans

Sir, the polar bear sled plan may be less than optimal.

First, while our team was training with the bears in Hamburg, Wilhelm Hagenbeck informed me that polar bears do not always hibernate in winter. Indeed, it was winter while we were there, cold (if not Arctic cold) and the bears seemed as active as you might ever expect. This will necessarily impact our provisioning plans.

Second, it is currently our experience that a carnivore as heavy as a draft horse is not easily swayed to our purpose and that a half dozen of them compound the problem far more than six-fold.

The closer we came to Hammerfest and the arctic ice, the more restless the bears became. As we took the first out of his enclosure, he stood on his hind legs. A fine trick when done in the circus but rather disconcerting when two of you are holding him with control sticks attached to a collar from either side and the effect is to lift you off your feet, swinging into his flank within range of his massive foreclaws. This unexpected behavior startled us so much that Hans and I both let go our grip and the bear took off at full speed North to the ice, with the sticks essentially airborne.

We were particularly careful after that incident, moving the bear-carts into one of the facilities used to process fish before we tried to move the bears out of the carts and harness them to their sleds. This seemed to work well—although it would be a bit impracticable to replicate in the hold of a vessel or on the ice—and we steered our charges out onto the town’s streets, where mid-afternoon gloaming was brightened by the electric streetlamps and the Northern Lights. Onlookers gathered round at a remove as Lars climbed into one of the sleds and took the reins. Then all five bears leapt forward along the path blazed by their brother. Lars could be seen hauling on the reins with seemingly no effect, as the bears passed quickly out of our view. We put a party together to find him, and recovered three of the sleds—though much damaged. Of Lars and the other sleds we have not yet found a trace.

Lieut. Thorvald Nilson
Hammerfest

Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:43 -0700