Sunday, November 25, 2007




History of the Iditarod

Dog Sledding became very popular in 1925, when a diphtheria outbreak occurred. This outbreak started in a small village known as Nome, Alaska. The small native community had very little immunity and no supply of antibiotics. However, serum was available in Anchorage, Alaska from the Alaska Railroad Hospital. The only problem with this was that the serum had to be transported 670 miles threw ice and snow. The only two airplanes in Fairbanks were both down for the winter due to the fact that they were both open cockpit planes. If planes had been available, the risk of a plane crash and loss of the only serum was way too high. The only other way to transport the twenty pounds of medication was by train. The train brought the serum to Nenana, Alaska, from there, 22 dog sled teams carried the serum the rest of the way. It took the teams approximately five and a half days to transport. the race still occurs today and is now know as the Iditarod.

Book: Frommer’s Alaska 2004 With the Lowdown on Alaska Cruises (2002). (pg. 230-264) Wiley Publishing, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey

Dog Mushing in Alaska

Dog mushing is much more than just a way of transportation, it has developed into a recreational sport as well as a hobby. Owning a team of dog is a lot of work, owners of these dogs have to feed, care for, and exercise more than a dozen dogs a day. Many places in Alaska offer sled dog rides and tours. Fairbanks, Alaska is just one of the many places to enjoy the rush of the running dogs because of the vast lands and wide open spaces. One place that had great reviews was a small lodge called Sun Dog, there they will teach you how to drive a team of dogs, they also offer summer sled dog rides. When the dogs run in the summer they use a sled with wheels on the bottom. Prices for these rides range any where from $39 dollars all the way to 12 hour tours for $349 dollars.

Dog Sledding

Brown, Hawkins (1910). Alaska's Digital Archives: 1/2 Ton of Gold Dust. Seward, Alaska

The title of the picture above is 1/2 Ton of Gold Dust, this picture was taken between 1904 and 1913. It shows a couple of dog sled teams lined up on Fourth Avenue in Seward, Alaska. This picture was taken after the teams brought back of large amount of gold dust from the Iditarod gold fields. It was said to be the largest amount of gold dust ever carried by dog sleds, and is was valued at $210,000.
D. Smith, C. Whitlock (2003). Mush the Rush: a mushing chronicle.
Dog sledding was once the main source of transportation in the Arctic Region, dog sledding goes back before snow machines and airplanes all the way to the 1800's. Dog sleds were used to transport such things as people, cargo, mail, and medicine from location to location threw the deep snow. Dog sledding was not only used for transportation, in the mid 1880's the first race occurred. In 1886 racing became a big part of winter carnivals and in 1932 dog sledding was a demonstrated sport at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.