By Mrs. Burrows
What is the Iditarod?
The Iditarod is a dog sled race that takes place in Alaska, U.S.A. every year.
Look at the map. You can see Alaska is in the far north beside the territory of the Yukon.
The route changes every other year. On even years, the race follows the northern route. On odd numbered years, the race follows the southern route.
You can see the 2 routes on this map. The red route is the northern route used on even numbered years. The blue detour is the route they take on odd numbered years.
Click on the link below to see the route for this year.http://www.iditarod.com/images/route_download.jpg
This race is over 1851 kilometres long. Mushers travel over some of the roughest, but most magnificent land in the world.
It is a dangerous race so mushers and their dogs must be prepared and knowledgeable in order to stay safe. Mushers and their dog teams must navigate jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, forests and tundra.
The weather also makes this race dangerous. Temperatures can drop far below zero, and winds can cause a complete loss of visibility. The windy coast can be freezing cold, and make it very difficult to keep your team on track.
There are also hazards of overflow on the rivers, long hours of darkness and treacherous, steep climbs.
With a partner, complete the first 2 activities on your worksheet.
From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team and their musher cover over 1851 kilometres in 10 to 17 days.
The Iditarod Trail was developed and first used by the First Nations people. Then trappers and gold diggers who came to Alaska over 100 years ago used it as well.
Have you ever heard of The Gold Rush? Back in the late 1800s times were tough for North Americans. Many did not have jobs because several businesses in the Untied States had gone bankrupt. Seattle, Washington, buzzed with excitement on July 17, 1897. Word had come over the telegraph wires two days earlier that the S.S. Portland was heading into Puget Sound from St. Michael, Alaska, with more than a ton of gold in her hold. The gold strike had begun quietly on August 17, 1896, when three miners found gold in the Klondike River, a tributary of the Yukon. On board the Portland were 68 miners and their stores of gold. nytstore.comExcited by the promise of catching a glimpse of gold, 5 000 people came down to the docks to see the miners and their treasure. The crowd was not disappointed. As the miners made their way down the gangplank, they hired spectators to help unload their gold. In a matter of hours, Seattle was swept with a case of gold fever. The great Klondike Gold Rush in Yukon Territory was on, as people dropped everything to head for the gold fields. http://www.nps.gov/akso/ParkWise/Teachers/TeacherResources.htm
Then gold was discovered in the southeast part of Alaska. About 100 000 people went to Alaska in hope of becoming rich.
Thousands left Seattle, Washington hoping to strike it rich!
Skagway and Dyea, Alaska, located 1000 kilometres south of the gold fields, were the closest salt water ports to the Klondike. They soon became "boom towns" that catered to miners. The most popular routes to the Klondike began here: from Skagway, stampeders took the White Pass and from Dyea they took the Chilkoot Pass.
In the winter, stampeders struggled in blizzards, snow, frigid temperatures, and avalanches. The trail shot up about 1 000 feet in the final half mile. Stampeders climbed the "golden staircase" ; 1 500 steps cut in the snow and ice, and used a guide rope for support. www.lib.washington.eduThe forty-two km trail over Chilkoot Pass was steep and hazardous. Most stampeders who gave up did so attempting to cross the mountains.
Each person had to bring a years supply of food and equipment with them. Most loads weighed about 450 kilograms! These prospectors had to make many trips to carry all their supplies through dangerous mountain passes.
Conditions on the White Pass trail were dreadful. The route was narrow, steep, slick and overcrowded. Many pack animals died.
Those who survived the hardships established mining towns and panned for gold. The Iditarod Trail is the easiest route through Alaska and many mining towns were built along this trail.
People looking to get rich, traveled as far as Nome, which is on the northwest edge of Alaska. That is where the Iditarod Trail ends.
The Iditarod Trail is now a National Historic Trail. In the olden days this route was first used to deliver mail, supplies, bring the preacher to communities and to send out furs and gold. All of this was done in the winter by dog sled.
There is another reason the Iditarod Trail is famous. In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway. Something terrible happened in 1925 in Nome.
Nomes doctor, Dr. Welch, examined two Eskimo children who were very, very sick with sore throats. Dr. Welch knew they had diphtheria. Diphtheria is a very contagious and fatal disease.
He knew they had to get the diphtheria antitoxin to Nome as soon as possible or there would be a terrible epidemic! The serum was rushed to the Alaska Railroad train, which carried it to Nenana. There, twenty dog mushers were alerted and took the antidote all the way from Nenana to Nome.
The mushers had to race against time or many would die! The serum arrived in Nome in time to save the lives of dozens and dozens of children. Leonhard Seppala was a Norwegian man who helped get the serum to Nome in 1925.www.baltostruestory.comThis is Balto, a lead dog who helped get the serum to Nome.
Today that serum run is memorialized in the annual 1851 kilometres Iditarod dog sled race that ends in Nome.