More impressive than the Kessel Run
August 10, 2008 10:41 AM Subscribe
posted by Cobalt (34 comments total)
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All across Alaska, radio operators tore their earphones from their heads, swore under their breath, and ran out to find help. The telegram in their hands read: "AN EPIDEMIC OF DIPHTHERIA
IS ALMOST INEVITABLE HERE STOP I AM IN URGENT NEED OF ONE MILLION UNITS OF DIPHTHERIA ANTITOXIN STOP MAIL IS ONLY FORM OF TRANSPORTATION STOP I HAVE MADE APPLICATION TO COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH OF THE TERRITORIES FOR ANTITOXIN ALREADY STOP THERE ARE ABOUT 3000¢WHITE NATIVES IN THE DISTRICT".
The call came from Nome, two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, icebound, and completely unreachable, save for a 1,085 km. overland trail that traversed several mountain ranges and seemed too dangerous to even contemplate. The date was 22 January 1925 and, with a mortality rate close to 100%, more than 10,000 people were at immediate risk of dying from diphtheria.
48 hours later, after discarding all other possibilities, a desperate plan was put in place to deliver the serum over that very trail via a relay of dog teams. Over the next 127 hours, 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs braved some of the harshest terrain on the planet to save those lives. They battled gale-force winds, ice fog, severe frostbite, ice storms, null visibility, and temperatures dragged down to -65°C by the wind to achieve what became famously known as the Serum Run to Nome
. Some even became heroes
in the process.
The Iditarod Race
was named for that trail and pays homage to the Serum Run. A recreation
of the event takes place every February, for those inclined to participate.