6 sleds, 12 men, 66 dogs, and a lot of licorice
February 12, 2012 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Tasked with monitoring 160,000 square kilometers of north and northeast Greenland, the Slædepatruljen Sirius - or Sirius Sled Patrol - is the only military dog sled patrol in the world.

Formed by Denmark during WWII to prevent German invasion of Greenland, the Sirus patrol travels through snow and in Greenland where the annual average temperature is -10C (14F) - although it can dip down to -55C (-67F).

The Sirius Patrol currently has 14 men on roster, though women are welcome to apply. Requirements and testing are both rigorous (Danish language only); in addition to compulsory survival training, applicants endure two days of psychological testing.

Photographer Fritz Hoffman offers ultra-cold photography and gear tips while following one sled team and finds "the key to surviving the cold is a well stocked supply of hot licorice."

The Danish patrol uses a husky dog bred from Greenland dogs, which feed on pemmican, dried fish, and lard during the expedition. Most dogs will work for five years and in that time, have traveled about 20,000km (12,427 miles).
posted by mlo (10 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting - according to the history page (in Danish), there actually was a battle in 1943 on Greenland where one Danish and one German soldier died. Not even the further reaches of the world appears to have avoided the bloodshed of WW2.
posted by ymgve at 2:00 PM on February 12, 2012


From the article:
Rasmus carefully staked out the dogs, making sure they were separated enough to prevent contact. He then spent a little time with each one. "They become your family," Jesper says. Rasmus bear-hugged their proud lead dog, Johan; their cheerful female, Sally; their resident troublemaker, Indy; and their legend, Armstrong, who was in his tenth winter as a sled dog—a Sirius record, twice as long as most dogs serve. Armstrong had hauled a sled at least 25,000 miles, more than a lap around the Equator.

Rasmus knew that Armstrong was nearing the end of his career. There's no room at the Sirius base for retired dogs. And the dogs—as much wolf as pet—cannot be adopted. They must be euthanized, an act the patrollers do themselves with a pistol. Both Rasmus and Jesper say it's the most difficult part of the job.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:02 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This unit played a role in the "North Atlantic Weather War", a tiny but untimately important front of WWII. They would find and report the presence of German weather bases to the US Army. They were involved in a few skirmishes as well.

Also, I think this was part of the inspiration for the Antarctic chapters in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
posted by Winnemac at 3:12 PM on February 12, 2012


But what do they do? Wander around in the cold and camp out? What's the function that these people perform to justify their employment? What is it they're patrolling to guard against are there lots of drug traffickers in the tundra to catch? Soviet spies? I don't get it.

As exciting as I'm sure dog sledding is, this seems like an utterly pointless military outfit. It seems like a single boat would be equally as useful, and less expensive and less dangerous.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2012


"When things go wrong you can't eat the carburetor", Inuit joke about preference of sled over snowmobile.
posted by hortense at 4:50 PM on February 12, 2012


Read the article:

The 12-man team visits each inch of the cracked and ragged coastline at least once every five years, formally supporting Danish sovereignty under international conventions.
posted by mlis at 4:53 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


But what do they do? Wander around in the cold and camp out? What's the function that these people perform to justify their employment? What is it they're patrolling to guard against are there lots of drug traffickers in the tundra to catch? Soviet spies? I don't get it.

Asserting Denmark's sovereignty over the territory, apparently... Not that this couldn't be accomplished in the modern era with a ski equipped Twin Otter (or Basler!).
posted by thewalrus at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2012


What's the function that these people perform to justify their employment?

I think it's great that they do what they do. Respect here to the max. These guys are pretty extreme if you ask me. Not just extreme, but doing a job, too.

That's darn extreme compared to the trust fund kiddies with their death-defying sports.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:16 PM on February 12, 2012


tylerkaraszewski: "It seems like a single boat would be equally as useful, and less expensive and less dangerous."
A boat. Cute.
posted by brokkr at 4:37 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rasmus knew that Armstrong was nearing the end of his career. There's no room at the Sirius base for retired dogs. And the dogs—as much wolf as pet—cannot be adopted. They must be euthanized, an act the patrollers do themselves with a pistol. Both Rasmus and Jesper say it's the most difficult part of the job.

These dogs deserve better, I think. Not placement with a family, obviously, but some sort of preserve where they can live out their golden years after such hard work.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2012


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