timistravels

My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Some facts about the Iditarod

on March 16, 2015

Fairbanks, Alaska

Monday, March 9, 2015

Since moving to Alaska I have learned a lot about the Iditarod, and was blessed to get a chance to go to the start and first check point this year! The start was moved to Fairbanks for only the 2nd time in history because there was not enough snow, basically NO snow in Anchorage.  The Iditarod is probably the most famous sporting event in Alaska, though there are many other races each winter, the Iditarod is the ‘grandfather’ of the others.

Some history on the Iditarod:

  • In 1925 the residents of Nome, Alaska were in need of some medicine as there were many residents infected with diphtheria.
  • There were 1400 residents at that time and the only Dr. in town was worried the entire population may die off if medicine did not come to Nome quickly.
  • Anchorage was the only place in Alaska that had the medicine but because it was winter getting the medicine to Nome would be challenging, no boats, no trains etc. could get to Nome.
  • Dog teams became the best solution to save the citizens of Nome by delivering the medicine, as dog teams were the way that mail was taken to rural Alaska.
  • On Jan. 27, 1925 a musher named Wild Bill Shannon wrapped 20 #’s of medicine and took off with the help of his nine dogs.
  • They traveled 674 miles to get the package to Nome.
  • The weather was very nasty and cold getting lower the -60 degrees during the run. (ironically a lot like the bitter cold this winter is proving to be for the racers).
  • Wild Bill became hypothermic along the way and passed the medicine onto another musher and team of dogs.
  • The cold weather continued and the musher Seppala left Shaktoolik but decided to take a short cut over Norton Sound where the winds were so strong it reached -85 degrees, and the dogs had trouble because the trail was icy.
  • The next leg was run by musher Olson and finally passed to Gunnar Kaasen who left in a blizzard.
  • His lead dog was actually from Seppala’s kennel but was a great leader and famous with Alaskan’s “Blato” .
  • An 80 MPH gust of wind tossed the sleigh over and the medicine became buried in the snow, Kaasen was eventually able to retrieve it
  • Blato as the team leader pulled into Nome on Feb. 2nd at 5:30 a.m.
  • It took these teams 5 ½ days to get the serum to Nome, and sadly 5 dogs lost their lives in the attempt to save humans.
  • Over 150 dogs and 20 mushers helped get the meds to Nome saving the lives of the residents of the town.
  • In 1973 the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Sled Race was started.
  • The race was started in part to commemorate history BUT also to save the ‘sled dog’ culture that was being overtaken by snow machines.
  • The first winner was Dick Wilmarth and it took him 3 weeks to arrive in Nome
  • This years race will stop in 18 communities (not counting the day in Anchorage) include 77 racers and over 1000 dogs!
  • Dogs drop 6,000-10,000 calories a day so it is important for them to eat about 4-5 #’s of food each day. Usually it is dry food mixed with some meat.
  • Teams can start with no more than 16 dogs, but no fewer than 12, the MUST end the race with at least 5 dogs as some dogs drop out along the race and are flown back to anchorage, typically because of an injury of some sort or simply exhaustion.
  • Teams  this year will travel over 968 miles.
    IMG_handlers

    handlers bring the teams to the start line. Every 2 minutes a new team leaves from the start line.

    IMG_me

    watched about 25 teams take off from this spot…. freezing, freezing, freezing…

    IMG_deedee

    DeeDee Janrowe is racing for the 33rd time in the Iditarod. She is known as the PINK team in support of breast cancer awareness. She is a survivor and ran the race just weeks after chemo one year.

    IMG_me sign

    being that Fairbanks is the Ice Sculpting Capital it was only appropriate that there was one of a dog team!


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