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Pollyanna, The Submariner Reindeer

December 1, 2014 by admin

As the holiday season gets underway, we wanted share with you the interesting life of reindeer Pollyanna.

Picture a reindeer.

How does it move around?  Perhaps you are seeing it walk from place to place through the tundra.  Or maybe you know that reindeer are good swimmers, so you visualize it swimming across an arctic lake or fjord.

And reindeer fly!  Everyone knows that.

But did you know they also ride in submarines?

Well, at least one did, back during World War II.

Photo credit: Royal Naval Museum

Photo credit: Royal Naval Museum

Hard to believe?  Check out this true story:

A British submarine named the HMS Trident was stationed as part of the British-Russian alliance at Pollyarnoe, a naval base near Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean.  The commander of the Trident, Lieutenant Commander G M Sladen, chatted up the local Russian Admirals about life back in England.  He mentioned his children and his wife’s difficulties in pushing the pram up the steep hills in the snow.  The Russian leaders, in a gesture of goodwill between the Allies, decided to try to help.

When the Trident shipped out of Polyarnoe in August 1941, the Russians added a live baby reindeer to the provisions laded aboard.  If reindeer could pull Santa’s sleigh, surely one could help out moving a pram!  How could Lt. Commander Sladen refuse such a thoughtful gift?  The crew dubbed the reindeer “Pollyarnoe” in honor of their Russian home-port, but soon Anglicized the name to “Pollyanna.”

Thinking the Trident would be returning to her base in Scotland in two or three weeks, the Russians provided a few bales of tundra moss for Pollyanna to eat.   But plans changed and the Trident was at sea for six weeks straight!  The whole time with a (growing!) baby reindeer on board.  When the moss ran out, the crew fed Pollyanna table and kitchen scraps.

The crew took care of her and cleaned up after Pollyanna, but supposedly the deer would only allow Lt. Comander Sladen to be near her when the surface hatch was opened to allow fresh air into the sub.

reindeer_2After six weeks at sea, the now rather large reindeer was extracted from the sub with some difficulty and returned to dry land.  After a few weeks with the Sladen family, Pollyanna took up residence at a Royal zoo, and lived out her life in peace and comfort.

There are many stories old and new, some true and many fictional, that capture the true meaning of holiday cheer and spirit.  This is one of our favorites and we hope that you enjoyed it as well.

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