Thursday, April 23, 2009

Horatio Nelson Attacks a Polar Bear

One of the most enduring figures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who managed to gain an historical reputation for being dashing even though he had one arm, one eye and missing teeth ("Being shot in the face really, really sucks," quoth one of the Amateur Historian's friends). This is half due to his infamous affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, one of the great beauties of her time, and his own personal interpretation of what it means to be an action hero.

Lord Admiral Nelson had, in the Amateur Historian's opinion, the sort of courage that seems to be stupidity and occasionally dips a toe into the pool of 'Oh-my-God-are-you-sane?!'

When Nelson was fifteen and serving as a midshipman in the inspirationally named HMS Carcass, his ship was part of a fleet trying to find a passage to the Pacific through the artic. The fleet (really two ships, the Carcass and the Racehorse) became predictably trapped in the ice. One day, Nelson and a friend set off to stalk a polar bear. Nelson's gun misfired, the friend vanished and the polar bear turned to attack them.

At that point, Nelson attempted to clobber the polar bear to death with the butt-end of his musket.

This plan met with little efficacy since a. Nelson was rather short and scrawny and b. the polar bear was large, heavy and enraged. Nelson's captain fired a canon and scared off the polar bear, at which point the captain insisted that, though it was a fine ambition to want to get a polar bear skin for one's father (Nelson's justification for attacking the polar bear) it was a supremely bad idea to go about getting it by beating the polar bear over the head with an unloaded musket.


  1. So... we can't really blame H. Nelson for the depressing polar bear status reports of today..? That's a relief!

  2. lol, no. Horatio Nelson: Making Protecting Endagered Species Simultaneously Both Cool and Extremely Difficult.

  3. Not exactly PC! Surely part of the reason he was dashing was because of the Battle of Trafalgar?

  4. I would categorize that under the heading of 'own personal interpretation of action hero'; not every action hero wears all his shiny, reflective, very noticable medals into battle. There's no denying that the man is amazingly awesome, but I would argue that he was ideosyncratic.

  5. Amazing,