Igloo: American Polar Explorer

Igloo became famous in history for accompanying his master Richard Byrd on his expeditions to the North and South Poles.

Igloo and Richard Byrd

In the winter of 1926, Maris Boggs found a stray terrier puppy shivering on the streets of Washington DC. Unable to keep the pup, she convinced Richard Byrd to take him and include him on his upcoming expedition to the Arctic.

In April 1926, Byrd, his crew and his newly adopted dog (given the name Igloo by the ship's crew) set sail to Norway, where Byrd would challenge Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, to become the first man to fly over the North Pole. Byrd made the fifteen and a half hour flight, and Igloo was there to congratulate him on his victory - disputes later arose over the legitimacy of Byrd actually reaching the North Pole.

Igloo's second great adventure was in 1928 when Byrd began his first Antarctic expedition. This was the largest and most expensive expedition to Antarctica, consisting of two ships, three airplanes, 95 sled dogs and 650 tons of supplies. The goals of the expedition were to make the first flight over the South Pole and to bring experts to study the unknown territory. A base camp named Little America was constructed near the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on the Bay of Whales, housing 42 men.

Igloo, nicknamed Iggy, helped boost morale in the men during the isolation of their long expedition. Unlike the sled dogs who could tolerate sub-zero temperatures, Igloo had to sometimes wear a jacket and booties to help keep him warm.

Upon his discovery of the snow:

"The soft, yielding resistance of the snow was delicious to his paws. He sniffed it gingerly, then a red tongue emerged for a tentative lick. The sharp coldness took him by surprise... he emerged in a flurry of crystals, made a bee-line dash to the shack at the crest of the slope, then swept into a series of concentric circles that ultimately ended in his becoming a whirling dervish, enveloped in a minor snow storm of his own making."

In November 1929 Byrd successfully flew to the South Pole and back, and in June 1930 the expedition returned to the US. Byrd was given a hero's welcome, and Igloo was at Byrd's side as they rode down Broadway in NYC during a ticker tape parade.

In April 1931, while Byrd was away on a speaking engagement, Igloo became ill. After hearing the news, Byrd cancelled his lectures to return home. Sadly, Igloo died before he made it home.

Igloo was buried in the Pine Ridge Cemetery for Small Animals in Massachusetts. His headstone is in the shape of an iceberg, and on the stone is a bronze plaque with the inscription "He was more than a friend". TIME magazine and newspapers across the country covered Igloo's death, and Byrd received thousands of letters of condolences written by children from around the world.

Later, Byrd's hometown of Winchester, Virginia erected a life size statue of Byrd with Igloo by his side (using the top photo) in front of the Court house.