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.
Dogs at rest following the race
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