Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Last Great Race on Earth

The famous Iditarod Race starts March 7th, 2009 in Sarah Palin's home town, Wasilla, AK. Born from an effort to avert a tragedy, it attracts the interest of people from all walks of life. But only the very toughest dare compete. JC

You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams. Add to that temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod. A race extraordinaire, a race only possible in Alaska.

From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over 1150 miles in 10 to 17 days.

It has been called the “Last Great Race on Earth” and it has won worldwide acclaim and interest. German, Spanish, British, Japanese and American film crews have covered the event. Journalists from outdoor magazines, adventure magazines, newspapers and wire services flock to Anchorage and Nome to record the excitement. It’s not just a dog sled race, it’s a race in which unique men and woman compete. Mushers enter from all walks of life. Fishermen, lawyers, doctors, miners, artists, natives, Canadians, Swiss, French and others; men and women each with their own story, each with their own reasons for going the distance.

The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born.
In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs.

The Iditarod is a commemoration of those yesterdays, a not-so-distant past that Alaskans honor and are proud of.

How Diptheria Gave Birth to the Iditarod: History of the Biggest Sled Dog Race
February 09, 2006 by

Only the dogs could save the people. The city of Nome had been hit with a deadly epidemic - diptheria. Without lifesaving vacine, many, if not all, would die. It was 1925. Anchorage had a supply, but it was nearly 1200-miles away. What could Nome do? It was winter, the ports were blocked by sea ice. Primitive airplanes were no match for the vastness of Alaska. Train tracks hadn't even been laid yet. That left only one possibility - sled dogs. Huskies would pull a sled guided by a man (known as a "musher") and in relay fashion - one team to the next - speed the medicine across the frozen tundra to the people of Nome.



© Janet Crain

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