The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 3, May 2000

Table of Contents

From the Editor
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Nunavut Quest 2000:
More Than a Race
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Nunavut Quest 2000:
Drivers' Meeting
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Nunavut Quest 2000:
On the Trail
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Nunavut Quest 2000:
Race Results
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Poem: Dogs of the Sledge Trail
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Inuit Demand Inquiry of Historical Dog Extermination Policy
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Memories
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Nunavut's Official Symbols
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Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
The Veterinary Service in Greenland
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ISDI Foundation:
Acknowledgements
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Sled Dog Problems in Iqaluit
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Baking: Dog Cookie Recipe
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Crafts: Save That Hair
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Behavioral Notebook:
Social Order
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Book Review:
Polar Dream
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In My Humble Opinion: 
Sharing the Trail
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Update:
Ihe ISDVMA Meeting


Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch


Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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ISDI home page


Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor-in-Chief: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
Print Edition: Imaged and distributed by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.

Print subscriptions: in Canada $20.00, in USA $23.00, elsewhere $32.00 per year, postage included. All prices are in Canadian dollars. Make checks payable in Canadian dollars only to "Mark Brazeau", and send to Mark Brazeau, Box 151 Kangiqsualujjuaq QC J0M 1N0 Canada. (Back issues are also available. Contact Sue Hamilton.)


The Fan Hitch
welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.


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The Inuit Sled Dog International

The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the preservation of this ancient arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog. The ISDI's efforts are concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to its native habitat. The ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and questions.

ISDI Coordinator Canada:
Geneviève Montcombroux, Box 206, Inwood, MB R0C 1P0; gmontcombroux@gmail.com
ISDI Coordinator USA:
Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791, mail@thefanhitch.org

Camp on the sea ice. Note the dog food in the foreground, flippers to the sky.              Hamilton photo

Nunavut Quest 2000:
On the Trail to Arctic Bay

[What follows is an interpretation of writer, photographer and official race timer Lee Narroway's experiences on the trail with the Nunavut Quest 2000, based on her upcoming article in Above & Beyond Magazine.]

The clear, albeit somewhat warm, weather at the start of the race was no indication of what lay ahead.  In fact it was within an hour of the sunny start and almost carnival like atmosphere back in the north Baffin hamlet of Pond Inlet, that good weather was but a memory. Mushers had only begun to chip away at the 450 kilometre trek to the finish line when the scores of people, dogs and snowmachines were in the throat of a raging blizzard.  These were brutal conditions.  It was tough enough being the driver and sole occupant of a dog-powered qamutik. Lee was riding a qamutik pulled by a snowmachine.  Traveling on a sea buckled with pressure ridges relentlessly slammed her spine and body.  In whiteout conditions it was nearly impossible to use the movement of the snowmachine ahead to provide the warning to prepare herself for the next concussion.   Added to this was a fierce and dispassionate cold wind and hard driven snow. She developed an approach avoidance conflict over the need to remove four layers of caribou skins and machine made clothing to answer the call of nature knowing she needed to preserve every bit of body heat for what may lie ahead.  Mother Nature never gives a damn whether you live or die.  Despite all this and the total uncertainty of what would have to be endured and for how long, there was the other side... the breathtaking scenery (occasionally visible), the privilege of a southerner to be accepted as part of this "family", to share in the totality of the experience, to get  more than just an outsider's glimpse into a 4,000 year old tradition and perhaps a vanishing way of life.

Lee Narroway described the Nunavut Quest, "This race is fraught with the danger of polar bears, daunting snow and ice conditions, severe temperatures and unpredictable weather.  Unlike any other sled dog race, it is run between totally isolated communities.  There are no sophisticated support systems, no shelters situated on the land for man or dogs, no hovering helicopters, no set trails or directional markers and no veterinary or medical presence.  The only contact with the outside world is a small orange radio.   Support crews travel together and set up daily camps but mushers must be totally self-sufficient and prepared for any emergency.  They carry food, a rifle, sleeping skins, snow saw (for igloo construction), and an emergency radio."


                                                                                                 Hamilton photo

She goes on to say, "The Canadian Inuit Dog is a breed unto itself.  It has evolved into a magnificent endurance animal, not a fine-tuned racing machine like southern husky breeds, but an incredibly, tenacious dog with the ability to work hard for extended periods of time, despite frigid temperatures, appalling weather conditions and limited food."

Day one for Lee did not end upon her arrival at the first camp site.  It was seven hours later before the first team emerged from the whiteout to cross the finish line, marked only by a red gas can opposite a snowmachine.  For six more hours she waited in the storm, stopwatch in hand in caribou mitt, to clock in the remaining twelve teams.  And this is how seven of the 8 days of what was originally planned as a 5 day race ended. Minus 50 degree temperatures, relentless winds, a blizzard lasting 72 hours, and deep powder snow set the terms of the race beyond the 27 rules put to paper by humans.

But the unusual depth of the snow was no match for the depth of the human spirit driven to press on towards Arctic Bay. And so the necessities of the endeavor were routinely carried out despite weather severe enough to freeze humans, dogs and machines in their tracks.  Mushers tended to their dogs' needs, with the daily ritual of using an ax to portion frozen seal carcasses for food.  One driver made sure the fur on his team of twelve’s feet was clipped short with a scissors in order to minimize the collection of balls of snow between the pads. Another driver actually watered his dogs every day of the race. This unusual move had to have been a daunting task under the circumstances. 


Chopping up a seal carcass for the dogs                                        Hamilton photo

After bravely sampling the green fuzzy stuff freshly "unzipped" from the stomach of a caribou, Lee might have been ready for anything.  But warming in a pot on the Coleman stove was something thick and dark and onerous in aroma.  Dinner? Oh no! When done, instead of ladling the brew onto plates, the "chef" applied thin coats of this slurry of earth to his qamutik's runners, all 32 feet.  Alternating this with pieces of water soaked snow followed by smoothing the surface with a mitted hand, the process added nearly 4 inches to the height of the runners.  Scraping and final layers of water, blood or urine made for a hard surface.  This meticulous process was to be repeated daily to reduce drag and make the dogs' job somewhat easier.  But easier was a relative term on this trip for in some places the trail went over land, up hills covered in thigh high snow.

What appeared to be the improvisational treatment of the sled runners was actually a time honored part of travel on the land.  This stands in contrast to the time spent in camp when, waiting out a storm seen in the distance  on the trail to the next check point, a game of soccer was conducted improvising with a ball made up of socks tightly bound up with string!

The morning of the eighth day on the trail was blessed by the absence of wind.  There was no doubt that this was to be the final day of the race, and a short one at that.  Camp had purposely been set up just 25 km from the final finish line in Arctic Bay.  A mass start, similar to the one for the sprint tune-up race nine long days ago in Pond Inlet, more or less ensured that even the last teams to cross the final finish line were assured of an enthusiastic greeting by the 600 residents of Arctic Bay who eagerly awaited their arrival.


After a run                                                                               Hamilton photo

The Inuit Sled Dog International is indebted to Lee Narroway for sharing some of her thoughts with Fan Hitch readers.  Look for her Nunavut Quest 2000 story and beautiful photos in the September/October issue of Above & Beyond, Magazine of the New North.  For subscription information call toll free 1-877-227-2842; or call 1-613-599-4190; e-mail at <info@above-n-beyond.com>.  Visit the Above & Beyond home page at <www.above-n-beyond.com>.

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