Polar Bear

 Polar bearDover Museum's famous polar bear was given to museum by a relative of the explorer and doctor Reginald Koettlitz, who had brought it back from the Arctic in 1897.

The Polar Bear, fitted with a lamp holder in its paw, stood in the Dover surgery of the Koettlitz family from 1890 to 1960. It was then given to Dover Museum.

Dr. Reginald Koettlitz, 1860-1916

  • Born December 23, 1860 at Ostend.
  • His father, a Minister of the Reformed Lutheran Church, and his English mother, settled in Dover shortly afterwards.
  • 1873-76 Day boy at Dover College
  • 1876-84 Medical student, Guys Hospital. FRCS and MRCS 1884-86 Edinburgh, LRCP
  • Became a country doctor in coal mining village of Butterknowle, Durham.
  • 1894, while visiting family in Dover, volunteered as Medical Officer and Geologist to the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition to the Arctic. Sailed for Franz-Joseph Land on July 12, 1894 on the 'Windward' and spent 3 years in Arctic.
  • He established the comparative ages of rocks at F-J Land and in honour of this, had an island in the F-J Archipelago named after him.
  • 1897 returned to Dover with the Polar Bear. Gave ticket-only lectures on the expedition at Dover Town Hall, dressed in his Arctic clothing, complete with skis and snowshoes.
  • 1898 M.O. to the Abyssinia Expedition by Herbert Weld Blundell and Lord Lovat, followed by an expedition to the jungles of Brazil. On leaving Dover in 1898 he gave the Polar Bear to his brother Maurice who stood it in his surgery reception at London Road, Dover. His clothing, skis, snowshoes and medical bag were given to Dover Museum.
  • 1901 returned to Dover, married a French girl and then volunteered as Senior Medical Officer to Scott’s 1901-04 expedition to the Antarctic on 'Discovery'. Sailed August 6, 1901. His assistant M.O. was Dr. Wilson who died with Scott in 1912.Koettlitz led the second party on the trip across McMurdo Sound in November 1902 and discovered a massive glacier they named Koettlitz Glacier.
  • 1904 returned to Dover and gave illustrated lecture 'Furthest South' at Dover Town Hall.
  • He emigrated to South Africa (Darlington, Cape Colony) and practised as a doctor. Awarded RGS Medal for the Antarctic expedition.
  • 1915 moved to nearby Somerset East. 6 months later he and his wife fell ill and both died on January 10, 1916 within 2 hours of each other - he of acute dysentery and she of heart disease. Both buried by the Freemasons near Somerset East and memorial erected.




Contact Us

Dover Museum
Market Square
Kent CT16 1PH

Tel: 01304 201066

Enquiries: museumenquiries@dover.gov.uk

Opening Hours

April - September: 9.30-5.00 Monday to Saturday,
10.00 - 3.00 Sunday 
October - March: Monday -Saturday 9.30 - 17.00
Closed Sunday.
Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Free Admission