“Admiral Byrd’s Penguins at the Brookfield Zoo and Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

During the Second Antarctic Expedition in 1935 Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1885-1967), captured eleven emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), which he sold to the Chicago Zoological Society for Brookfield Zoo for the benefit of his men.[1]  Admiral Byrd contacted anthracite coal mining magnate and boxing promoter George F. Getz, who had donated the 143 animals from his private menagerie at Lakewood Farm to the Chicago Zoological Society in 1933,[2] and Mr. Getz relayed the offer to the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949), President of the Chicago Zoological Society (1921-1948), who dispatched Brookfield Zoo Director Robert Bean with $5,000 to buy the birds and bring them back in a refrigerated car.[3]

The birds started to die off due to a fungal infection in their lungs, possibly contracted from hay when they were aboard ship.  Subsequently, the Brookfield Zoo donated them to The Field Museum of Natural History.[4]  McCutcheon recounted, “Our zoo bought them and they were shipped out in a refrigerated car.  They… were the first of their kind in captivity and nobody knew just what care they needed.  Their arrival was followed by two harrowing weeks.  One of them died.  A hurried autopsy was made in the hope of locating the trouble, thus saving the others.  Great blocks of ice were put in their quarters.  Another died.  Some were put out in the winter cold; others in an air-conditioned cold room.  But the tragedies could not be averted.  Doctors skilled in bird treatment did what they could but every one of those splendid penguins died.  A fungus growth in their lungs was the only trace of trouble that could be found.  The assumption was that either they had picked up some infection from the hay used in their quarters on shipboard, or else that they lacked resistance to accommodate themselves to any air less pure than that of the Antarctic which contains no particle of dirt or vegetable matter whatsoever.  Now they form a handsome group in the Chicago Natural History Museum.”[5]  [The Chicago Natural History Museum, of course, was the name of The Field Museum at the time McCutcheon wrote his memoir, before it reverted to being called The Field Museum of Natural History.]  The fungal disease that killed the birds was aspergillosis.[6]

Staff Taxidermist John W. Moyer mounted the eight emperor penguins in the diorama in a habitat group.[7] Charles Corwin and Arthur Rueckert painted the landscape for the Emperor Penguin Diorama to depict the Ross Ice Shelf.[8]

Emperor penguins live the farthest south of any other type of bird.[9]  They are the tallest and heaviest penguin species, hence the name.  An adult emperor penguin is about the size of a ten-year-old boy, four feet tall and weighing ninety-four pounds.[10]

29178965_10156693741322437_4506063589978669056_nFigure 1 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: Staff Taxidermist John W. Moyer mounted the eight emperor penguins in the diorama in a habitat group.

 

29186993_10156693741482437_2147699268243161088_nFigure 2 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is my nephew looking at the Emperor Penguin Diorama on Friday, March 9, 2018.  As with the Four Seasons, the African Elephant Group, The Lions of Tsavo, and Bushman, families have been able to view the Emperor Penguin Diorama for generations.

 

29187334_10156693741822437_6680006109127770112_nFigure 3 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: Charles Corwin and Arthur Rueckert painted the landscape for the Emperor Penguin Diorama to depict the Ross Ice Shelf.  They painted additional penguins in the background the way filmmakers use practical and digital special effects to increase the number of people viewers see on screen.

[1] John T. McCutcheon, Drawn from Memory: The Autobiography of John T. McCutcheon.  Indianapolis and New York City: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1950), p. 426

See also Sally Metzler, Theaters of Nature: Dioramas at The Field Museum. Chicago: The Field Museum (2007), p. 38

[2] Andrea Friederici Ross, Let the Lions Roar! The Evolution of Brookfield Zoo. Chicago Zoological Society (1997), p. 30

[3] Ross, p. 45

[4] Metzler, p. 39

[5] McCutcheon, p. 426

[6] Ross, p. 45

[7] Metzler, p. 39

[8] Metzler, p. 39

[9] Metzler, p. 39

[10] Metzler, p. 39

Advertisements

1 thought on ““Admiral Byrd’s Penguins at the Brookfield Zoo and Field Museum” by S.M. O’Connor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close