It's time for the sled dog olympics to begin! This weekend, teens and dogs will race in the Junior Iditarod. The race takes place in Alaska. It begins Saturday at 10 am. A musher leads a team of seven to ten dogs across 160 miles of wilderness trail.
The race has a wonderful history. In January, 1925, a doctor from Nome, Alaska, sent a telegraph to Anchorage. Children were dying of a disease called diptheria. They needed medicine. But the train only went as far as Nenana. Nome was 647 miles further.
To save the children, dog sled teams took the challenge to relay the medicine from Nenana to Nome. Normally, the 647 mile trip took 25 days. Twenty dog sled teams raced to save the children. These brave teams made the trip in just 5 days.
The teams faced hurricane-force winds. Temperatures fell below -50 degrees. The two most famous dogs to led the sled teams were Tago and Balto. They became heroes in the "Great Serum Run."
In 1978, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race began. It honors the original teams who saved the children. Today's race is 1,049 miles long.
Before the adult race, there is an Iditarod for young people. The Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race covers 150 miles. Mushers between the ages of 14 and 17 lead teams of 7 to 10 dogs. The Junior Iditarod begins today, on February 27, 2010.
For more information about the Junior Iditarod, go to http://www.mushhusky.com/subject-guides/18-The%20Jr.%20Iditarod.pdf
Would you like to read more about the great serum run? Check out these books from your library:
The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller
The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Stanford
Togo by Robert Blake.
PS Gee and haw are musher terms. Gee means that dogs should turn left. Haw means that the team should turn right.