Bear in a boat in Duluth, 1944

This post has been updated to include new information…

Over the years, many people have sent photos to the News Tribune for one reason or another. Sometimes the paper has asked for reader submissions; other times people have sent pictures unsolicited, for the DNT to keep, viewing the paper as a kind of repository for local history.

Many of those photos – sent years, if not decades ago – are hanging around in the Attic without much information to explain the stories behind the images. Here’s a series of five unusual reader-submitted photos showing a bear sitting in a boat in the Minnesota Slip, now home to the William A. Irvin ore boat. The only caption information with them was: “Taken by Einar Amundson. Bear jumped into boat in the canal.”

After putting out a call for more information on Sunday night, Duluth author and historian Tony Dierckins provided the answer:

The tragic story of this bear is retold in the book, “Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge”:

“An incident in 1944 was far less tragic, but nonetheless unfortunate. A black bear found its way to the slips behind Marshall-Wells, jumped in the bay, and swam into the canal. Three Park Point residents—E. A. Thorleson, age twenty-four; Michael Gauthier, eighteen; and Donald Parker, fourteen—set out in a small boat to rescue the bear and return it to the wild. The bear didn’t appreciate their efforts. Thorleson tried to lasso the bear, but missed; the bear used the rope to claw onto the boat, where it bit its would-be rescuer and tore his pants. Thorleson and his companions abandoned ship. The Coast Guard then towed the boat to the docks, where they successfully lassoed the bear and attempted to pull it onto the pier. But the bruin wouldn’t budge, and officials, deciding it was too dangerous to help, shot it to prevent further trouble.”

This is an excerpt from a longer piece called “Casualties of the Canal.” You can read the whole piece on Zenith City Online.

So, unfortunately, not a happy ending to the story behind these quirky photos. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment so far. If you have anything more to add about this bear – or if you have other tales of odd animal encounters in the Twin Ports – please post a comment.

5 thoughts on “Bear in a boat in Duluth, 1944

  1. Basil is right. The tragic story of this bear is retold in the book, “Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge”:

    “An incident in 1944 was far less tragic, but nonetheless unfortunate. A black bear found its way to the slips behind Marshall-Wells, jumped in the bay, and swam into the canal. Three Park Point residents—E. A. Thorleson, age twenty-four; Michael Gauthier, eighteen; and Donald Parker, fourteen—set out in a small boat to rescue the bear and return it to the wild. The bear didn’t appreciate their efforts. Thorleson tried to lasso the bear, but missed; the bear used the rope to claw onto the boat, where it bit its would-be rescuer and tore his pants. Thorleson and his companions abandoned ship. The Coast Guard then towed the boat to the docks, where they successfully lassoed the bear and attempted to pull it onto the pier. But the bruin wouldn’t budge, and officials, deciding it was too dangerous to help, shot it to prevent further trouble.”

    This is an excerpt from a longer piece called “Casualties if the Canal.” You can read the whole piece on Zenith City Online, part of the “Myths and Legends” category of the Zenith City History Archive:

    http://zenithcity.com/zenith-city-history-archives/myths-notorious-tales/casualties-of-the-canal/

  2. I have a copy of the original taken circa 1947 by my father, Ed Gleeson. My dad said a drought had brought a number of bears into the city looking for food and this lad was one of em. My Grandparents old hotel, the Metropole and Ormond are on the upper far right.

  3. If its the one I remember the bear got into the canal under the brige. The coast card came to help, the bear ended up in boat and the two or thre sailors were in the water. The boat was towed to the slip were police officer
    Mattson shot the bear with a pistol. I believe three photos made Life Magazine.
    Basil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>