Saturday, October 31, 2009

Camera Critter #82

During my Air Force career, I lucky enough to go to a lot of place most people wouldn't think of going. One of those places was Thule AB, Greenland. Located about 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it was a cold, desolate place populated by few humans, but there was a beauty about the place I will never forget.

One of those beautiful sights happened a couple of days after my arrival. Myself and several friends took off for a road trip south of the base. Our van bounced and crawled along the dirt and rock road until it ended near a canyon. We got out and after exploring the area for a while, sat down on the edge of a cliff overlooking Baffin Bay.

It was a relatively warm day in late May 1982, however, ice still covered the bay. As we sat there talking and taking in the isolation, we became aware of a black dot on the ice to our south. As we watched, the dot got bigger and after a while, we could see we were watching a native Greenlander moving along the ice with his dog team and sled. No one said a word as the sled team passed by us and continued on its way north. When it was again a dot in the distance, without a word, we got up, went to the van and headed back to the base.

That was my first eskimo sled team. I didn't see many more in action due to the summer ice break up. However, in April of 1983, the annual sled dog race on the ice of North Star near the base was held. The course was slightly more than three miles and driver teams from far and wide arrived to participate for the prizes. Top prize in the race was a lever action 30-30 rifle.

And, part of the race allowed for a lucky member of the base population to ride as a passenger on each sled. So names were drawn and riders selected and on the day of the races, everyone was excited. I wasn't selected to ride in a sled, as my job of base newspaper editor meant covering the activities for those unable to attend the event and for publication in the Thule Times. So I was wandering around, interviewing people at the event, and joining in the festivities before the race.

Then came time for the race to begin. A large number of sled dog teams lined up side-by-side on the ice of the bay. When the starting shot was fired, off they went.

Sled dog teams in Greenland use a setup known as a fan hitch. The dogs are individually connected to the towline and are spread out in a fan shape. This allows for easier maneuvering around ice ridges and dangerous areas. Teams in Alaska and racing teams in general, use a gangline setup where pairs of dogs are connected to the towline in an in-line formation. This allows for easier maneuvering though treed areas.

So, if you look closely at the dog teams in the photos below, you'll noticed the fan hitch setup used by the Greenlandic people.

The winner approaching the finish line

The winner crossing the finish line

Dogs at rest following the race

Misty Dawn's Camera Critter Meme is a great way to see critters of all types. Go to the Meme homepage here and check out more entries. Then join the fun and let the world see your critters!


chubskulit said...

Oh my gosh, that is a wonderful experience. Hubby is in the navy but retiring soon..

Here's my Camera Critters entry. Have a spooky one!

Misty Dawn said...

Awesome! Absolutely awesome!!!
I love the last pic - it's like "Yeah, another day's work is done"

eileeninmd said...

How cool, what a neat sight to see the sled race. Nice post and photos.

Snap said...

Awesome is right! What memories for you! Thanks for sharing them. I love the last photo also -- *okay -- so what's next?!!!*

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, they're beautiful!

Martha in PA said...

What an wonderful experience! Has much as I don't like the cold, I have this yearning to visit such a place! Most likely will never happen!


We love Luna said...

Thanks so much for sharing this lovely story and pictures!
Happy Camera Critters
purrs and love
Luna - We love Luna

Teresa said...

amazing animals. WHat a great post to read. Thanks

Jedediah said...

Neat photos and a fascinating post. I'd love to see Greenland one day.

Calico Crazy said...

Great memory to share, those dogs look as though they are having the time of their lives. The one yawning in the bottom photo is beyond cute. I love dogs!

Calico Contemplations

freegal1000 said...

Love these snaps! My Grandpa was stationed up near the Arctic Circle during WWII and has spoken fondly in the past of Huskies and what hard workers they are...

Melissa B. said...

I'm sure a good time was had by all, up in the frozen tundra, huh? Seriously, though, love your shots!

Life's a Beach

leonnybg said...

I am impressed by your story. Thanks for the story and photos. Make me a small part of this world.