In This Issue...
F.I.D.O.: Daniel Annanack
F.I.D.O.: Mark Brazeau and Qimmiit Utirtut
Wolf Problems in Kuujjuaq
Inuit Dogs of Mawson Station
Differences in Mushing: Greenland and Arctic Canada, Part II
Inuit Produced Information Resources
In the News
Book Review: 1000 Days with Sirius
Product Review: 3M™ Precise Skin Stapler
IMHO: A Time for Action
One Thousand Days with Sirius
by Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen
reviewed by Sue Hamilton
One Thousand Days with Sirius The Greenland Sledge Patrol by Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen is without question a must-have book, even if you're not particularly interested in sledge dogs, sled dogs or dogs for that matter. Perhaps this is the sort of comment typically saved for closing remarks of a book review, but I can barely contain my enthusiasm. It was a year ago, in the December 2004 issue of The Fan Hitch, that Mikkelsen's F.I.D.O. gave us a tantalizing glimpse into the world of the Sirius Patrol. And it has been an even longer wait for the much anticipated publication of the English translation from his original 1986 Danish Tusind dage med Sirius.
Where to begin singing this book's praises? Perhaps it is best to start with its physical 'feel'. I am not a big fan of soft covers as they seem to take a beating in my hands. But the paper is high quality and the covers extra sturdy, making the book surprisingly hefty for its 240 9"x6" pages. The cover photo is dramatic and its overall color perfectly compliments the subject matter - a very cold time and place.
If you think of Mikkelsen's F.I.D.O. as an appetizer, then his book is without question the sumptuous meal. Beginning with 'Selection and Training', he shares with us the process of becoming a Sirius man. Then, chapter-by-chapter, the reader tags along as Mikkelsen describes the progression leading up to a unique experience in all the world: teams of two Danish soldiers and eleven dogs patrolling Northeast Greenland from the beginning of November to the end of May.
Mikkelsen's tugline is always tight; this insider's chronicle of daily life at Patrol headquarters in Daneborg as well as on the trail leaves no slack whatsoever with respect to a richness of detail. He thoroughly describes each of the positions within the Sirius society (the Syndicate Man, the Machine Man, the Sparky, the Osmosis Man, the Provisions Man, the Slop Chest Man, the Boat Man, the 'Nordre' Man, the Fire Master, the Cook and, of course, the Dog Man) that all members of the unit must experience. While dog sledding is the first image that comes to mind when the name Sirius Patrol is mentioned, Mikkelsen ensures that his readers understand and appreciate all facets of the exclusive community, including its rituals ceremonies and traditions, proven successful for more than half a century, without which their hallmark activity would not be possible.
Of course, Mikkelsen pays homage to the most key of
players in the Sirius
community: the dogs. He details their breeding program,
profile, care and use.
"…with an average weight of between 37 and 39 kg being the norm in a team consisting of animals between six months and five years old… the typical Sirius dog is not a sprinter, since it is not used for sport racing… its build is a reflection of the sledge patrol's need to be able to travel 25 to 40 km per day, six days per week and for periods of up to four and a half months. This traveling will not be just on sea ice or hard tracks but often on stony areas with poor snow cover and through trackless mountain country where the sledge must be hauled forward a meter at a time. Considering that the sledge loads will be between 350 and 550 kg, it is clear that the Sirius dog has become a remarkable draft animal."
His very first assignment as cook for everyone at
Daneborg, a fire at
the carpenter's shop, first training runs of the season
with wildly eager
dogs, traveling on thin ice, a failed attempt at jumping
across an open
lead; tales, both serious and humorous, abound between the
covers of One
Thousand Days with Sirius The Greenland Sledge Patrol,
giving the reader
a real sense of what it means to be a Sirius Man. Nothing
I have read elsewhere
comes close to this insight.
"…I had covered more than 7,700 km in the… days I had been sledging… I felt sad now that the end was in sight. Even though there had been grey days and downright bad days, I had never experienced such a total sense of freedom as on these sledge journeys… Some people have asked me simply; "What does it feel like returning home from Sirius?" I really don't know, but I am not certain that I will ever again feel so completely at home as I have for the past two years!"
One Thousand Days with Sirius The Greenland Sledge Patrol, original Danish by Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen, 1986; English translation by David Matthews, 2005; ISBN 0-9550773-0-3; published by The Steading Workshop, email: email@example.com phone: (+44) 01667 493 492, address: The Steading Workshop, Drummore of Cantray, Cawdor, NAIRN, Scotland, IV12 5XT; £15.00 + packing and postage (currency converter)