This is a story about a baby Guernsey calf named Iceberg. The story begins 81 years ago (1931) while America was in the midst of the great depression – and paid for this?
Explorer Admiral Richard Byrd was one of the respected leaders of the time. He was preparing for his second expedition to the Antarctic. It was an adventure that a depressed nation would rally around.
Admiral Byrd asked for 3 Guernsey cows to take on the voyage to provide milk for his crew. He chose Guernsey’s because their milk was known to have more nutrients. He and his crew needed the extra calories and protein on the expedition. These Guernsey cows would be the first to ever travel that far south. The American Guernsey Cattle Club helped source the cows for the voyage.
JC Penney volunteered one of his Guernsey cows, Foremost Southern Girl, from his award winning herd at Emmadine Farm in Hopewell Junction New York. You probably know JC Penney from the famous line of retail stores that bear his name. Mr Penney, who was born on a farm near Hamilton Missouri, also had a passion for farming. He spent much of the last 60 years of his life promoting breed improvements through his Guernsey and Angus herds. The Foremost name came from Penney’s beloved bull Langwater Foremost he purchased in the 1920s. He paid a then record price of $20,000. That bull sired many top cows and bulls. The Foremost name lives on today at one of the University of Missouri farms; Foremost Dairy Center that was started with a large donation of land and Guernsey cattle from JC Penney. The Foremost Farms brand name is still found on consumer dairy products.
A second Guernsey cow, Deerfoot Farms Maid, came from Deerfoot Farms, Southborough Massachusetts. She was milked at home with the Pine Tree Surge Bucket milker. Deerfoot Farms were featured in Surge Milker advertisements.
Foremost Southern Girl and Deerfoot Farms Maid boarded Admiral Byrd’s ship, the Jacob Ruppert, on October 7, 1933 in Boston.
The third Guernsey, Klondike Gay Nira Pola, came from Klondike Farms in Elkin, North Carolina. Klondike boarded the ship in Norfolk Virginia. She was bred and expected to calve when they arrived in the Antarctic. Admiral Byrd planned to have the first calf born in Antarctica to get news coverage for his expedition.
Edward F Cox of Buffalo New York was the herdsman for the trip. While in Virginia, he loaded the feed and bedding supplies for the cattle’s journey. 10 tons of Larro Feed was supplied for the cows and Larro made great use of this in their advertising once the ship returned to America in 1935. Additional bulk feeds were twenty tons of hay, beet pulp, and bran. Cox also included a 2 year supply of straw and sand for bedding.
Cox built a 14×16 mini barn inside the ship. The walls were heavily insulated to protect the cows from the extreme high temperatures at the equator and the extreme cold in the Antarctic. A coal fired stove and sun lamp were included to make the cows more comfortable. Cox outfitted the little barn with Jamesway stanchions and Surge Bucket Milkers. The Surge Milker was chosen because it was easy to clean in the challenging conditions on the boat and at Antarctic.
On October 22, 1933, The little Guernsey herd sailed south from Norfolk Virginia – 81 years ago. The beginning of an 11,000 mile voyage to the Antarctic.
The journey south was without any problems or surprises until they were approximately 275 miles from the Antarctic.
Sailor Lindsey describes the scene “seeing on the horizon the dim outline of my first iceberg, a beautiful tall spire crowning its massive cathedral-like form” and “soon they were very numerous…the ship had to weave about to avoid the ice-cakes…the products of the breaking up of ice bergs, and in melting they assume varied and fantastic shapes. Bobbing up and down in the waves they seem like the funny creatures of a huge merry-go-round” “Admiral Byrd said he saw more icebergs today than all those seen on the last expedition put together” (AAL, December 19). Sailor Paine comments: “We ran into ice at 1:30 this morning…The icebergs have been magnificent and truly one of the scenic wonders of the world”
Sailor and diver Bob Young continues the story;
“On December 19 we saw our first icebergs – and incidentally one of the cows gave birth to a calf, which was promptly named ‘Iceberg’. We are now in 65 degrees South Latitude and 163 degrees East Longitude – unexplored waters, as Captain Cook only came to 62 degree South Latitude in this longitude. We passed close to a big iceberg. It looked anchored, so we steamed around it and took soundings – but got no bottom. Byrd thought he might discover some islands or land in the Pacific Quadrant we were now in.”
Klondike blessed the crew with a baby bull calf. Herdsman Cox had suggested naming a female calf ‘Lucille’ for all the loose seals at Little America – their destination in the Antarctic. But the calf was a bull and so it was named Iceberg. Political style buttons soon were for sale honoring Iceberg[Iceberg button photo]
From the back of the button; “Born December 19, 1933 on the Byrd Antarctic Expedition II The Farthest South of any Dairy Animal.”
The Jacob Ruppert arrived at the southern destination on January 17,1934. The cows were all being milked twice a day. Iceberg was thriving and healthy. The cows were moved on shore to a temporary tent while an ice block barn was built for them. The cows walked 3 miles on the ice to get to the temporary shelter. The cow’s warmth and weight caused them to sink in the ice. They crew had to help the cows up when they would get stuck in the melting ice / snow mess inside the tent. Sadly, Iceberg’s mother developed frostbite and had to be put down. Herdsman Cox is quoted in Admiral Byrd’s book, The Discovery, “I’ve put away a lot of ‘em, Admiral, but it never got me before. I guess I got pretty fond of that cow”.
The Ice block barn had a coal stove, Jamesway stanchions and Surge Milking machines just like on the ship. The vacuum pump for the milkers was powered by electricity. Admiral Byrd took a wind generator to provide electricity. The crew was served milk in Golden Guernsey glass bottles. The paper caps were printed; “Byrd Antarctic Expedition, Golden Guernsey Milk Produced on Board the Jacob Ruppert.”
Electricity greatly enhanced the expedition ability to do research and survive in the harsh climate. The first human voices were transmitted from “Little America” Antarctic on February 1, 1934 and later a weekly broadcast was carried over the Columbia Broadcasting System in the United States The weekly radio show was both newsworthy and kept the world interested because the expedition was mostly funded by private donations. Only $150,000 in cash plus donations of supplies had been raised for the expedition. Not a lot of money for this endeavor, but on the other hand a significant amount considering the state of the 1933 economy.
In 1935, the 3 Guernsey’s, Iceberg, Foremost Southern Girl and Deerfoot Farms Maid returned to America completing their 22,000 mile adventure. They returned to their original owners and farms. Iceberg became an American folk hero. He had a medallion made in his honor and helped Admiral Byrd raise more money. Deerfoot Farms Maid grew a thick winter coat while at the South Pole. She never lost it once back home. She lived until 1942.
The Surge Milker used on the expedition was made of Monel Metal an alloy that would not rust. Stainless Steel was not yet in use for dairy and food processing. This model was made from approximately 1926 to 1935. You can see this version of the Surge Bucket Milker and 11 other models now on display at Hamby Dairy Supply in Maysville Missouri.
Added after NL published;
Out takes from journals of those on the expedition:
Bob Young of NZ: December 15. All three planes went for different flights. The big Condor left 7.30 pm for the east – at times she rose to 15,000 feet when visibility got bad. The Condor returned 3
a.m. the next morning. Today the Guernsey cow Klondike (the mother of the calf born
coming down on the ship) had to be shot – she got down and could not get up on her feet.
These Cows have been good; no trouble whatever, and actually no exercise for twelve
months – tied up all the day. * One of the dogs froze its big toe, and chewed it off. **
- “Mr Young comes from an English farming family and among his other duties at
Little America he helped with the care of the three cows…For this he was awarded
a medal by the America
Feb 19 Bob Young: The young Bull [Iceberg] born on the ship going down and now over a year old – never been on land yet – was offered some nice fresh sweet clover hay. It wouldn’t look at it the first day, but the second day YES.