Some cows that headed south in 1933.

Episode: 7. Site Number: 105. Date Posted: 13 May 1996. Update 10 March 2000. Location: Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA. Type: Museum.

Peterborough Historical Society Quite by chance I came upon a site of Antarctic interest in the historical society in Peterborough, the next town to mine in New Hampshire. The Guernsey Cattle Club was located for many years in Peterborough and apparently its public relations director made arrangements for three Guernsey cows to accompany Byrd on his second expedition in 1933. A display on the second floor has the following caption: "On Saturday, October 7, 1933, Admiral Richard E. Byrd asked for the loan of three Guernsey cows to take to the Cow & sledge at Peterborough H.S. Antarctic with him in order that the men might have some fresh milk on the trip. Cows from Deerfoot Farms, Southboro, Massachusetts, Emmadine Farm, Hopewell Junction, New York and Klondike Farm, Ellan, North Carolina, were loaded on the supply ship Jacob Ruppert. In addition to sand and straw for bedding a two-year supply of hay, beet pulp, grain and bran were loaded as well as a supply of milk bottle caps reading 'Byrd Antarctic Expedition, Golden Guernsey Milk Produced on Board the Jacob Ruppert.'"
      The three quiet Guernseys were persistent milkers and returned from Antarctica after 22,000 miles of sea travel with a new bull calf christened "Iceberg."
      Iceberg was born 275 miles north of the Antarctic Circle on December 19th; all hoped that the birth would be truly an Antarctic event but it was not to be. The cows were named after the farms they came from: Deerfoot, Emmadine & Klondike. The last, alas, contracted frostbite and had to be destroyed. Cox (who carried out the deed) is quoted, on p. 334 of Discovery, as saying "I've put away a lot of 'em, Admiral," he said, "but it never got me before. I guess I got pretty fond of that cow." Other references to the cows appear on pp. 24, 36, 37, 38, 184, 189 & 381. Guernsey Medal
      At Little America there was a Cow Barn (15x31x8 feet) complete with an electric milking machine.
      A medal was struck memorializing these Antarctic "explorers" and one is on display at the Society. Also, a model of the crate and sledge used to transport the cows and an original Boston Globe cartoon featuring the cows and signed by many of the expedition party.
      I'm continually amazed at the completeness of of John Stewart's Antarctica-An Encyclopedia. On page 217 is the entry: "Cows. Not many cows have been imported to Antarctica, Byrd brought 4 with him to Little America II during his 1933-35 expedition."
      I wonder whether these were the first cows to make it south or winter over. Have any done so since?

Update 10 March 2000: [From a Letter from Joe Merriam, 16 May 1999]

..."In the summer of 1942 I was one of 8 or 10 youngsters who took temporary jobs at the huge Deerfoot Farm in Southborough, Mass. This farm must have owned or rented some thousand acres of arable land and pasture, it had a large barn and milking sheds for 200 cows--Guernseys, Holsteings and Jerseys, with silos, a dairy, and other outbuildings. Not one vestige of this immense establishment remains today, it's all developed into houses, lawns with barbecues, a suburban landscape.
      Pride of place in the first cowshed belonged to an old Guernsey cow who had spent 1930 with Admiral Byrd in Little America. She had grown a shaggy coat in the severe Antarctic conditions, and had never lost it. A placard gave her history and name; I can't recall the name [Deerfoot] but she was referred to, disrespectfully, by the barn-workers as "Lady Deerfoot," being old and rather wilfull. By 1942 she had ceased to yield much milk: and I remember the farm superintendent, "Daddy" Deering, conversing with the farm manager, Mr. Sayles, as to whether they should get rid of her. Indeed she disappeared that same summer, to the best of my recollections. Those were war-time days, and not much sympathy was shwon for an animal of great historic interest, but no longer productive."