Biological records from the U.S Antarctic Service Expedition, 1939-41

Kevin Mackay, NIWA

Dataset credit



Primary contact Kevin Mackay NIWA N/A


SWPRON (2019): Biological records from the U.S Antarctic Service Expedition, 1939-41. v1.1. Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. Dataset/Occurrence.
Mackay, K. 2020. Biological records from the U.S Antarctic Service Expedition, 1939-41. Data downloaded from OBIS-SEAMAP ( on yyyy-mm-dd and originated from OBIS (


The United States Antarctic Service Expedition (1939–1941), often referred to as Byrd’s Third Antarctic Expedition, was an expedition jointly sponsored by the United States Navy, State Department, Department of the Interior and The Treasury. Although a U.S.-government sponsored expedition, additional support came from donations and gifts by private citizens, corporations and institutions.
Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd donated many of the supplies that he had gathered for his own expedition, the largest item being the Bear of Oakland, commissioned the USS Bear. A second ship, the USMS North Star, a 1434-ton wooden ice ship built for the Bureau of Indian Affairs was supplied by the Department of the Interior.
A total of 125 men departed from the United States in the two ships of the United States Antarctic Service Expedition. Most of the men who made up the expedition were solicited from the military ranks, civilian agencies of government and scientific institutions. A few volunteers were employed by the Department of the Interior for $10 per month, food and clothing included. A total of 59 men, divided initially into three groups, wintered in Antarctica.
The objectives of the expedition were outlined in an order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt dated November 25, 1939. The President wanted two bases to be established: East Base, in the vicinity of Charcot Island or Alexander I Land, or on Marguerite Bay if no accessible site could be found on either of the specified islands; and West Base, in the vicinity of King Edward VII Land, but if this proved impossible, a site on the Bay of Whales at or near Little America was to be investigated, and delineation of the continental coast line between the meridians 72 degrees W., and 148 degrees W. In view of the broad scope of the objectives and the unpredictable circumstances that always arise in Antarctica, it is remarkable that most of the objectives set for them were met.
Observations were conducted in every conceivable area: seismic, cosmic ray, auroral, biological, tidal, magnetic and physiological to name a few. All in all, it was an extremely successful expedition.
With international tensions on the rise, it was considered wise to evacuate the two bases rather than relieve the present personnel with new men who would continue to occupy the bases. It was hoped that one day this base would be reoccupied so much of the equipment and supplies were left behind as the two ships sailed from West Base on February 1, 1941. The evacuation of East Base was concluded on March 22 and both ships sailed immediately. The USMS North Star arrived in Boston on May 5 and the USS Bear on May 18.



Supplemental information

This dataset was downloaded from OBIS ( The records for only marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and rays and sharks were extracted. Records with no longitude/latitude or no date (eventDate) were excluded.
OBIS dataset page:
Data Provider's dataset page:


SWPRON (2019): Biological records from the U.S Antarctic Service Expedition, 1939-41. v1.1. Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. Dataset/Occurrence.



This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
All attributes are included in the downloadable file (CSV or ESRI File Geodatabase) for "Complete Set of Dataset".

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidInternal ID
idRecord ID
dataset_idDataset ID
scientificnameScientific name
vernacularnameVernacular name
aphiaidAphia ID
taxonranktaxononic rank
individualcountGroup size / individual count
eventdateEvent date (precision varies)
eventtimeEvent time
decimallatitudeLatitude in decimal degrees
decimallongitudeLongitude in decimal degrees
coordinateprecisionCoordinate precision
catalognumberCatalog number
collectioncodeCollection code
occurrencestatusOccurrence status
basisofrecordBasis of record (HumanObservation / MachineObservation)
modifiedDate/time the record was modified
node_idNode ID
occurrenceidOccurrence ID
occurrenceremarksOccurrence remarks
eventidEvent ID
institutioncodeInstitution code
lifestageLife stage
sexGender of the animal if known
speciesSpecies by provider
datasetidDataset ID by provider
localityLocation of ocean
waterbodyDetails of ocean
droppedFlag indicating the record was dropped (always false)
absenceFlag indicating the record represents the absence of the species (always false)
marineFlag indicating the record is for marine life (always true)
Marine mammals3
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin1939-12-14
Date, End1941-03-01
Temporal prec.100000
Latitude-78.63 - -18.00
Longitude-179.91 - -62.92
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Traveled (km)0
Contr. throughiOBIS
Sharing policy CC-BY (All)
Shared with None
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