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The Enduring Love of Those Huskies
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The Enduring Love of Those Huskies
by Sue Hamilton
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the fact remains that veterans of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey/British Antarctic Survey remain fiercely devoted to their British Antarctic Huskies, the Inuit Dogs who provided them with more than just their labor. The passage of time, since the mid 20th century, has not diminished their fervor as you have read elsewhere in this issue of PostScript and in contributed reminiscences published in the Journal and PostScript over the years. The subject of dogs was the poignant topic of discussion at the recent Zoom (online) 52nd Marguerite Bay Reunion just last month.
This enduring loyalty between FID/BAS men and dogs recently hit on a personal level. Ken Blaiklock was one of those veterans, brave back in the time of Antarctic exploration and brave again in his decision, along with all the other attendees arriving from the UK, who decided that the October 2001 Stonington Reunion in Stonington, Connecticut, USA must go on despite having been scheduled to take place less than one month after the horrors and ongoing chaos of the terror attacks of 9-11. Mark and I were invited to attend the gathering along with a span of eight of our Inuit Dogs, ranging in age from nine weeks to about nine years-old. Like iron filings to a magnet, our team drew enormous attention and the passion and emotions witnessed during the “reunion” of dogs and men was palpable. Ken was one of those men. Some fifty years had passed since this memory:
Ken Blaiklock commented that it was important
not to show favouritism to one particular dog.
They all liked to be thanked and receive a bit of a
fuss after a hard day’s slog. Photo: Ian McMorrin
This photo appeared on the margueritebay.org website which also published a 1995 quote from Ken, “Many sledgers will have such Dog-Day memories of 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years ago. But it all seems like yesterday.”
Ken Blaiklock passed away three months ago at the age of 92. His obituary in the Eastern Daily Press detailed a life of extraordinary accomplishments. He was a member of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) of 1955-1958, which completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica. Along the route to the other side of the continent, he made more history as one of the first men to reach the South Pole since Amundsen had forty-six years before in 1911. According to Ken’s Wikipedia page, “He was leader of the advance party which set up Shackleton Base and then he was part of the crossing party during which, with Jon Stephenson, they drove dog teams to the South Pole for the first time since Amundsen. Blaiklock completed the Antarctic crossing by reaching Scott Base aboard the Sno-Cat "County of Kent". Among the many awards for this and his other achievements Ken received the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to science and public service, and the Polar Medal with three bars for “personally made conspicuous contributions to the knowledge of Polar regions”. A glacier, an island and an Antarctic hut were named in his honor.
But it was the second of two photographs accompanying the obituary that I did not expect to see and had me sobbing:
Ken and Aqsaq
at the Stonington, CT Reunion, October 2001
When I wrote to Ken’s son, John, of my reaction to seeing his Dad with one of our dogs at the October 2001 reunion, he replied, “The 2 Stonington pictures of Ken with huskies he loved were always on the wall in his house… those two pictures sum up Ken's life - young with a working husky, and older, still loving a husky's company…Although Ken loved the dogs he worked with, dogs to him were working animals…”
Memories with dogs forged in the early 1950s remained with Ken up to the time of his passing, a span of some seventy years. Mark and I are humbled and forever grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to this nostalgic reunion and to know how much it meant to him. There is no better example of my belief in the enduring love these FIDS/BAS veterans still have for their huskies.
7600 miles and a half-century apart and it all seemed like yesterday.
Even the stances of man and dogs are the same!