Taylor assumed active duty as lieutenant commander in the U.S Naval Reserve Medical Corps and served as Chief Medical Officer at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica from 1955-1957. The airbase established at McMurdo Sound was constructed as part of the International Geophysical Year.
The Durham Morning Herald reported in 1957, “The year has been set up in order that simultaneous observations may be made over the entire world in such sciences as astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, geology, glaciology and others. Scientists from 55 nations are taking part in the program.”
|"One of the first planes to be flown in ('55) with Erubus in background steaming 12/55"|
Taylor’s previous research on the physiological effects of low temperature on tissue and his interest in Antarctic explorations led him to volunteer for the mission. For close to two years he studied hypothermia, the effects of cold weather on personnel, performed research and tended to the medical needs of the 60 men stationed at McMurdo Sound.
Almost half of his papers (Isaac Taylor papers Mss-219) are comprised of family correspondence. Throughout the entirety of his service in Antarctica Taylor exchanged hundreds of letters with his wife Trudy and their five children: Alec, James, Kate, Livingston, and Hugh. Taylor’s letters home include descriptions of his work, the landscape, newly constructed buildings and Naval equipment and vessels. From a letter dated January 10, 1956 Taylor writes to his two eldest sons:
It is evident that Taylor’s descriptions of his adventures in Antarctica and the general mystery surrounding such a far off place sparked the artistic minds of his children. You can see the product of their young imaginations and artistry in the drawings and paintings of Antarctica that accompany their letters back to Taylor.
This painting by his son James, shares a close resemblance to the volcano that Taylor described in his letter from January.
Personally, the letters and artwork so obviously represent the unwavering love between father and his children and the influence of his narrative and on their imaginations.
|“East Wind USCGC at ice ridge, McMurdo Sound, Summer 1956”|
The Isaac Taylor papers (Mss- 219) are a part of Rauner Library’s Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration, which features the papers of many polar explorers in addition to published materials, photographs, and vertical files. If you would like to learn more about “Operation Deep Freeze” and the Taylor family you can request Mss-219 at the reference desk.