Subscribe to Alaskan History

Single Issue $10The inaugural issue of Alaskan History Magazine is almost ready to be mailed! You can subscribe for one year (6 issues) or just buy the current issue and get a closer look at what it’s about, simply by clicking one of the big green buttons to go directly to PayPal, where you can use your credit card or PayPal account. If you would prefer make payment by sending a check or money order, the postal mailing address is Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 870515, Wasilla, Alaska 99687. To visit the Alaskan History Magazine website just click on the magazine cover below.

Small M:J coverPrices are $10.00 for a single issue, or $48.00 for a one year subscription (6 issues). You are more than welcome to purchase each issue as it’s published, but subscribing will save you $12.00 over the span of a year. All prices are postpaid, to U.S. addresses only. If you live outside the U.S. I can figure out postage pricing and work with you to get a single issue or a subscription delivered, just send me a message through the Contact page on the magazine’s website. Options for B/W, online, and other versions of the magazine will be added soon!1 Year Sub $48

Issues are published bimonthly: Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, and Nov/Dec. Copies will be mailed upon ordering, and then the first week of each issue date. Please allow ten days to two weeks for delivery unless priority postage is added to the price. Back issues will remain permanently available.

The first issue is almost ready for publication, thank you for your interest and support!

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Alaskan History

oie_164055HiQywoYDA New Magazine

I am an Alaskan author, and I have written and published more than a dozen non-fiction books on Alaska’s history through my company, Northern Light Media. My titles in print include a history of Alaskan roadhouses, the construction of the Alaska Railroad, the history of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, and many more.

Alaskan History has been foremost among my interests for over half a century, and I’ve shared my passion for history in the books I have published in the last ten years. Now I’m setting a different course in my efforts to share the history of our great state, with a bimonthly magazine which will bring the stories of the people, places and events which shaped Alaskan history to a wider audience. A magazine has always seemed more immediate, accessible and engaging than a book, and a good one will feature a broad range of subjects and photographs in its pages.

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Sample page layouts for the May-June issue

The inaugural issue of Alaskan History is slated for May-June, 2019, and the premiere issue features articles drawn from my books. I am looking forward to publishing many different writers, for Alaskan History is a huge topic, but this is a start, and I am excited about where it can lead. A simple caveat: This magazine is not designed to be an authoritative journal of history, and I do not presume to portray it as anything other than a simple effort to share some interesting stories, just as I have done with my books. But this will be a professionally produced magazine, as I have 30 years of experience in magazine production, editing, and publishing, and I have some major national awards for that work under my belt.

I am currently building a website for the magazine, and creating a presence on Facebook, and maybe on some other social media sites. If you are interested in writing for Alaskan History, send me an email at helenhegener@gmail.com and I will return my writer’s guidelines.

I’m still exploring options for a subscription price, advertising, and other details of publishing, but feel free to send an email if you’d like to be added to my mailing list for more information as it becomes available. And thank you for your interest, this is going to be a fun adventure!

Helen Hegener

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mush with PRIDE

Mush with PRIDE borderedThe mutually beneficial relationship between sled dogs and people is one of the oldest bonds of its kind. In his essay “A History of Mushing Before We Knew It,” champion musher Tim White wrote of this relationship:

“Sled dogs have coexisted and cooperated in partnership with humans for many thousands of years in the northern regions of North America and Siberia. Archeological evidence puts the earliest date at over 4,000 years ago. Some anthropologists suggest that human habitation and survival in the Arctic would not have been possible without sled dogs.”

Modern sled dog owners are proud of their dogs, and view them as canine athletes that are bred and trained to do what they love to do — that is, run as part of a team. The organization Mush with P.R.I.D.E., established in 1991 as an organization of mushers who were concerned about the care of sled dogs and public perceptions of mushing, supports the responsible care and humane treatment of all dogs, and is dedicated to enhancing the care and treatment of sled dogs in their traditional and modern uses.

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Northern Light Media photo

The abbreviations in the organization’s name, P.R.I.D.E., stand for Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment, and to address some of the concerns relating to sled dog care and training, the organization developed sled dog care and equipment guidelines. A voluntary kennel inspection program was established because, as the page on their Web site explains, “The P.R.I.D.E. Board firmly believes that if we mushers conduct ourselves responsibly then we will be less likely to suffer from unknowing governmental regulation. We hope that this program is a demonstration of the fact that we can responsibly take care of our own.”

Mush with P.R.I.D.E. guidelines have frequently been used by other groups and agencies when determining responsible dog care and kennel husbandry standards. Member clubs supporting Mush with P.R.I.D.E. include not only Alaskan sled dog groups, but mushing associations, clubs and groups from around the globe, including Canada, Norway, Great Britain, Germany, Jamaica and Australia. In 2007, P.R.I.D.E. elected a new multi-state, international Board of Directors. Anyone who cares about sled dogs and mushing is encouraged to support Mush with P.R.I.D.E. by becoming a member. Current P.R.I.D.E. members include large competitive kennels, small recreational teams, skijorers, veterinarians, race sponsoring organizations, local mushing clubs and fans of sled dogs. The support and input from the membership is what helps direct the P.R.I.D.E. Board of Directors and establish P.R.I.D.E. as a leading organization promoting responsible sled dog care and dog-powered sports.

Members receive a quarterly newsletter and a copy of Sled Dog Care Guidelines and Equipment Guidelines, and a First Aid Manual for Sled Dogs. Mush with P.R.I.D.E., PO Box 1915, Kenai, AK 99611. https://mushwithpride.org

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Seward’s Day

21. Alaska map 1895Seward’s Day, celebrated on March 25 in 2019, is a legal holiday in Alaska, falling on the last Monday in March and commemorating the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867. It is named for then-Secretary of State William H. Seward, who negotiated the purchase from Russia. The Alaska Purchase treaty was ratified by the United States Senate, and signed by President Andrew Johnson. (Seward’s Day is sometimes confused with Alaska Day, observed on October 18, which marks the formal transfer of control over Alaska from Russia to the United States.)

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Signing the Alaska Treaty of Cessation, L. to R. Robert S. Chew, Secretary of State (USA) William H. Seward, William Hunter, Mr. Bodisco, Russian Ambassador Baron de Stoeckl, Charles Sumner, Fredrick W. Seward, William H. Seward House, Auburn, New York. The artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (May 24, 1816 – July 18, 1868), was a German American history painter best known for his painting of ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware.’

Russia’s primary activities in the territory had been fur trade and missionary work among the Native Alaskans, but by 1867 Russia wanted to sell its Alaskan territory due to the difficulty of living there, apparent lack of natural resources (gold was later discovered in 1896), and fear that it might be easily seized by the United Kingdom in case of war between the two countries. The land added 586,412 square miles of new territory to the United States.

Reactions to the purchase in the United States were mostly positive; some opponents called it “Seward’s Folly” (after Secretary of State William H. Seward), while others praised the move for weakening both the UK and Russia as rivals to American commercial expansion in the Pacific region.

Originally organized as the Department of Alaska, the area was renamed the District of Alaska and the Alaska Territory before becoming the modern state of Alaska upon being admitted to the Union as a state in 1959.

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The US $7.2 million check used to pay for Alaska (roughly $105 million in 2016). With this check, the United States completed the purchase of almost 600,000 square miles of land from the Russian Government. This treasury warrant issued on August 1, 1868, at the Sub-Treasury Building at 26 Wall Street, New York, New York, transferred $7.2 million to Russian Minister to the United States Edouard de Stoeckl. The purchase price of the 49th state? Less than two cents an acre. Original located in the National Archives, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of Treasury.

 

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The Ascent of Denali

Ascent of Denali coverHudson Stuck (1865–1920), known as the Archdeacon of the Yukon and the Arctic, was an Episcopal priest, social reformer, and mountain climber in the territory of Alaska who co-led the first expedition to successfully climb Denali (Mount McKinley) in June, 1913. He wrote a book based on the climb, The Ascent of Denali (Mount McKinley): A Narrative of the First Complete Ascent of the Highest Peak in North America, which was published in February, 1914 by Charles Scribers Sons, New York.

Born in London in 1865, Stuck graduated from King’s College London and in 1885, eager to experience the “wide-open spaces” heralded in a railway advertisement, he immigrated to the United States. He worked in Texas for several years as a cowboy and a teacher, eventually turning to studying theology. After his training Stuck was ordained as an Episcopal priest and became the dean of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas in 1896. His notable accomplishments during this time included founding a home for indigent women, a boys’ school, and a children’s home; and in 1903 he pioneered the first state law to curb the “indefensible abuse” of child labor. 

Hudson Stuck with sigStill seeking a more challenging and adventurous life, Hudson Stuck moved to Alaska in 1904 to serve with Episcopal Church Missionary Bishop Peter Trimble Rowe, under the title Archdeacon of the Yukon and the Arctic, covering a territory of 250,000 square miles across northern Alaska. Stuck set right to work his first year in the north, helping to establish a church, mission and hospital at the new boomtown of Fairbanks. Over the next decade Archdeacon Stuck founded numerous missions and schools for Alaskan natives, and he visited them regularly, ministering also to miners and woodchoppers, and championing the plight of the Indians and Eskimos. 

In a typical winter Stuck mushed more than 2,000 miles by dogsled to visit the remote missions and villages, journeys which he would later immortalize in his book, Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled (1914). In 1908 he acquired a small riverboat,The Pelican, which he used on the Yukon River and its many tributaries, ranging several thousand miles every summer to visit the Athabascan Indians in their fishing and hunting camps. These travels he also later described, in his book Voyages on the Yukon and its Tributaries (1917). 

Stuck had experience in mountain climbing, including the Canadian Rockies and the dormant volcano Mount Rainier in Washington state. In 1913 he recruited the respected wilderness guide and musher Harry Karstens to join him in an expedition to the summit of Denali (then known as Mt. McKinley). Other members were Walter Harper, of Alaska Native and Irish descent, Tennessee native Robert G. Tatum, and two student volunteers from the mission school, Johnny Fred (John Fredson), and Esaias George.

8. Base Camp

Base camp, from the book.

They departed from Nenana on March 17, 1913 and reached the summit of Denali on June 7, 1913. When the party returned to base camp, Stuck sent a messenger to Fairbanks, and their groundbreaking achievement was announced to the world on June 21, 1913, by The New York Times.

Stuck worked as an Episcopal priest in Alaska for the rest of his life, writing five books, in part to reveal the abhorrent exploitation of the Alaska Native peoples that he witnessed in his work. In 1920, at the age of 55, Hudson Stuck, the venerable Archdeacon of the Yukon, died of bronchial pneumonia in Fort Yukon, and at his own request was buried in the native cemetery there.

3. Clearwater Camp

Tatum, Esaias, Karstens, Johnny and Walter, at the Clearwater Camp, from the book.

Harry Karstens, Stuck’s co-organizer, went on to become the first superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park when it was established in 1917. Walter Harper, the Irish-Koyukon Alaska Native, was the first to reach the summit of Denali on June 7. After the climb, Harper continued his formal education, and he planned on going to medical school. In September, 1918 Harper married Frances Welles with Archdeacon Stuck officiating, and he and his wife boarded the ill-fated steamer SS Princess Sophia, en route to Seattle, for their honeymoon. The ship ran aground on a reef in a snowstorm, was broken up in a gale, and sank on October 25. All 268 passengers and 75 crew were lost.

The fourth member of the climbing party was described in a biographical sketch on the website for the Special Collections of the University of Tennessee Knoxville: “The 21 year-old Robert Tatum, a postulant for holy orders and Tennessee native, was teaching at the Episcopal mission school at Nenana, Alaska when he met Stuck on one of the Archdeacon’s regular visits to the mission. Stuck enlisted Tatum as the camp cook for a planned ascent of Denali the next year. Even a trek to base camp would be a mountaineering feat. Tatum, the only inexperienced climber in the party, trained by hiking more than a thousand miles during the winter months that preceded the expedition. It was mere happenstance that Tatum joined the climb to the top. Just one week before the scheduled departure, Stuck invited Tatum to replace another climber who was unable to join the team.”

This post is an excerpt from:

Alaska & The Klondike
Alaska & the Klondike, Early Writings and Historic Photographs, compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, published May 10, 2018 by Northern Light Media. $24.95 (plus shipping), 320 pages, over 100 b/w photos, ISBN-13: 978-1717401991. Click the link in the title for more information, or Click here to order.
Kindle Edition now available. $5.99 (Kindle MatchBook $2.99)
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Project Jukebox: Mushing

Banner(resized)_0Project Jukebox is the Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program, part of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections of the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The program was established in 1981 to collect and curate audio and video recordings that relate to various aspects of Alaska’s history and the people who have contributed to its rich heritage. The collection contains over 11,200 individual recordings, including interviews with politicians, pioneers, and Native elders. Key collections include “Alaska Native Songs and Legends,” “Early Day Alaskans,” “The Alaska Native Elders-In-Residence Program,” and “On the Road Recordings with Old Timers.”

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Man with gee pole [UAF 1981-11-10]

 “Dog Mushing in Alaska” highlights stories related to the history of dog mushing in Alaska, showcasing historic oral history interviews and incorporating new recordings into the collection. The recordings included in this project represent various aspects of dog mushing, including traditional use, freighting, mail carrying, recreational use, tourism, sled building, trail systems, dog care, and racing.

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Dogteam in Nome [UAF 1989-192-26]

Among the interviews are mushing legends such as George Attla and Herbie Nayokpuk, Joe Redington, Sr. and Dr. Roland Lombard, but also many less-well-known but equally interesting interviews with dog drivers like Mary Shields, Grant Pearson, Moses Cruikshank and Effie Kokrine. Photograph slideshows accompany many of the interviews, and related materials include films, terminology, background resources, and websites of interest. The two-fold purpose of the Dog Mushing Project is explained here, and wonderful historic photographs are included throughout.

PROJECT JUKEBOX: Dog Mushing in Alaska

 

 

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Across Alaska in 1907-08

Last fall I shared an article about the Arctic explorer Ernest de Koven Leffingwell, a joint commander, with the Danish polar explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen, of the 1906-1908 Anglo-American Polar Expedition, which established that there was no land north of Alaska. In a dog sledge journey over the ice they took soundings and succeeded in determining the position of the continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean, 65 miles offshore, where within two miles the sea dropped away from 164 feet in depth to more than 2,264 feet.

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Ejnar Mikkelsen

In October 1907, his work for the expedition completed, Ejnar Mikkelsen set out on a formidable journey home, which would take him west along the Arctic coast from Flaxman Island, where he left Leffingwell to continue doing scientific research and mapping. Mikkelsen’s trail led to Barrow, Nome, Fort Gibbon, Manley Hot Springs, Fairbanks, and then down the Fairbanks-Valdez Trail to Valdez, where he boarded a ship for home. The first part of his journey was made by dogsled, the second half riding in the horse-drawn sledges which travelled the winter trails.

Mikkelsen’s entire trip was detailed in his book Conquering the Arctic Ice, published in London in 1909 by William Heinemann. The trip from the Arctic coast to Valdez comprises the last four chapters of the book.

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Conquering the Arctic Ice

Selected excerpts from Chapter X: THE SLEDGE TRIP FROM FLAXMAN ISLAND TO ICY CAPE

Neither Mr. Leffingwell nor myself felt particularly cheerful, and in spite of his assurances I could not but feel that it was not quite right for me to leave him behind with but one man to assist him. But he insisted it was all right, that he would not dream of keeping me in the country for his sake, that he could not see what work worth doing I could do under the circumstances, and once more my doubts were dissipated. We spent a considerable time in looking at the map, and I think that I almost enjoyed the prospects of the long march. At any rate there promised to be excitement on the trip, and although the road might prove long and hard, I preferred that to a year of inactivity. A big dinner was prepared. Mr. Leffingwell brought out some cigars which his father had sent, and while smoking we listened to a concert of selections from the great masters of music, performed on the gramophone, the machine which had made so many long hours pass pleasantly by.

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Homeward bound

Crossing Harrison’s Bay: We kept on till after dark, hoping to reach the other side of the bay, but the night fell, we stumbled on and on, until at last we could not see to walk any further and had to camp on the ice, which was less than a foot thick. It was a very unpleasant sensation, the ice bent under us, and we knew that a pressure during the night might open up the ice underneath us. Every thing we had by way of long pieces of wood, our snow-shoes, skis, some of the tent poles, ice spears, etc., were placed on the ice to give a better support ; then we crawled into our sleeping bags, trying as best we could to keep the small flame of our stove burning.

It was still too early in the day for camping, the trail to Point Barrow was yet long, our sledges were emptier than I cared to think about, our dogs footsore and tired, and we had to move on against the increasing wind, which cut through our clothing, froze our wrists and faces, and made traveling hard. We kept on driving till after dark, as there was plenty of wood about, and we wanted to make as long marches as possible. Besides, it was so bitterly cold that the thought of having to pitch tent was far from tempting, and we consequently put it off as long as possible, till at last the darkness forced us to camp.

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Native houses at Pitt Point

At the settlement of Pitt Point: The natives were very kind to us. They unlashed our sledges, took everything into the houses and fed our dogs, while a pot of coffee and some seal meat was placed on the stove in almost every cabin of the village, and the mistress of each was waiting and eager to have us come to her house and eat the meal she had prepared. And then they began to ask us where we came from, what kind of a trip we had had, and where we were going. When I showed them my destination on a map they would not believe me ; it was much too far— ” Oh, no, white man plenty lie!”

Manley Hot Springs Hotel

From later in the book.

On Wednesday, November 20, I left the kind people at Wainwright and started alone for Icy Cape. At first all went well, but then I struck some rough ice and had an awful time. I had to go ahead to break the trail, and the sledge, being thus unguarded, capsized time after time, was run into a snowdrift, or brought up against a sharp piece of ice. Whenever any of these things happened, as they very often did, I had to go back to the sledge, right it, dig it out of the snow, or disentangle it from the ice, as the case might be. The dogs had now learned to follow my every movement, and when I had to attend to the sledge they at once rushed after me and got their traces badly tangled. In their endeavours to get out of their difficulty they would then bite them in two, and when the sledge was ready to move I had to disentangle the traces of my nine dogs, which were always in a hopeless state of confusion. Then I had to knot together the chewed traces, take the hauling straps over my shoulder, and start the sledge from ahead of the dogs. For two minutes all might go well; then again I would have a capsized sledge, and the same trouble would begin afresh.

At Icy Cape: A young man, Oojooaktok, wanted to go down the coast, and we soon agreed that he and I should travel together. He was a nice fellow, and I never had any reason to regret our association, as he was not only clever, but also helpful and willing. Oojooaktok knew what he was about when he came and asked for permission to travel with me, for a herd of reindeer were expected at Icy Cape, and some young men were wanted as apprentices. He reasoned that Mr. Evans, the assistant superintendent of the reindeer herds of Alaska, would thus have the opportunity of seeing him before any of the other young men who stayed at Icy Cape. He wanted to go with me until we reached the herds, then he would go back with them.

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Conquering the Arctic Ice, by Ejnar Mikkelsen, can be read free online at the Internet Archive.

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Tribute to a Sled Dog

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PROLOGUE: TRIBUTE TO A SLED DOG

by Charles E. Gillham, 1965

You conquered the toughest country
Ever created on earth
Where you led, man followed your footsteps,
And the North was given birth.

197318_10150110089977826_2453825_nBrown-eyed, happy and gritty
You slaved, and your only pay
Was dry fish, blubber or muktuk
Thrown on the snow at your sleigh.

Without you, the Great North Country
Would yet be unknown to man
There are insurmountable barriers
That only a dog can span.

Who went to the Pole with Peary?
Who carried the serum to Nome?
who rescued our ship-wrecked sailors,
From the ice-pack, brought them home?

frostydogs-300x225Who traveled the creeks to Dawson,
Hauled the mail and packed out the ore?
Left crimson tracks along the Bering,
Heard Aleutian sea lions roar?

Who struggled, helping his master
On traplines barren and dreary?
Fought polar bears from the caches
Stood guard over those held dear?

Descendant of wolf ancestors –
Tempered by hardship and pain,
Fighting a raw, tough country –
These bred the Husky Dog strain.

[From “Sled dog : and other poems of the North,” by Charles E. Gillham, associate editor of Field & Stream magazine, an outdoor writer and game biologist. In 1934 he transferred to the Canadian Arctic as a Federal waterfowl biologist, and his arctic service resulted in four books, “The Raw North,” “Sled Dog,” “Beyond the Clapping Mountains” and “Medicine Men of Hooper Bay.” He left Alaska in 1945.]

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All photos by Northern Light Media.

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Planet Mackey

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Lance, 2008, photo by Helen Hegener

The 2019 Iditarod is wrapping up now, with the final teams making their way into Nome and the mushers which have been arriving for the past week are getting ready for the Awards Banquet. One of the most exciting events in this year’s race was the re-entry of mushing legend Lance Mackey, who set record after record a few short years ago and is still the only musher to win four Yukon Quest championships and four Iditarod championships, a couple of those being back-to-back runs with a pack of incredible superdogs!

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Larry, 2008, photo by Helen Hegener

His leaders became household names in Alaska: Larry, Lippy, Maple, Zorro… Big beautiful Alaskan huskies who led Lance to write in his 2015 book, The Lance Mackey Story:

“There is always the comfort and beauty of watching my team trotting. Muscles on their hind legs, rhythmic, trotting with so much power. Transfixed, I can stare for hours at my dogs moving across the white landscape, reminded that life itself is about moving forward-made authentic with risk. I’m willing to take risks to keep living, and my dogs are bold, always ready to share it with me. I’ve learned to force myself to look around, take my eyes off the team, even ride backward on my sled and look behind, to break the trance.”

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Lance Mackey at the 37th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race start in downtown Anchorage, March 7, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paizley Ramsey. [Wikipedia]

Lance’s achievements were such that they caught the attention of two famous astronomers, and they named a minor planet in his honor: 43793 Mackey. The official naming citation is published in the Dictionary of Minor Planet Names.

Discovered November 13, 1990 at the Palomar Observatory in California, 43793 Mackey was named by C.S. Shoemaker and D.S. Levy, who co-discovered the famous Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 in 1993, which collided with the planet Jupiter in 1994.

(43793) Mackey = 1990 VK7 = 1998 UR32 = 2000 CZ42
Discovered at Palomar on 1990-11-13 by C. S. Shoemaker and D. H. Levy.
(43793) Mackey = 1990 VK7

Lance Mackey (b. 1970), with his canine athletes, is the first musher to win North America’s two premier long-distance sled-dog races back-to-back, the 1000-mile Yukon Quest and the 1100-mile Iditarod. His 2007 triumphs are testimonial to his courage, toughness and determination as a cancer survivor. [Ref: Minor Planet Circ. 59923]

The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center is the single worldwide location for receipt and distribution of positional measurements of minor planets, comets and outer irregular natural satellites of the major planets, responsible for the identification, designation and orbit computation for all of these objects. This involves maintaining the master files of observations and orbits, keeping track of the discoverer of each object, and announcing discoveries to the rest of the world via electronic circulars and an extensive website. The MPC operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, under the auspices of Division F of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

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Sled Dog Mail

33a. Mail Delivery

Connor Cole delivering the mail by dog team, Kasilof, Kenai Peninsula, 1930’s. 

Delivering the mail to Alaska has always presented a formidable challenge to the U.S. Postal Service. Letters, parcels, and supplies from the Lower 48 states often took weeks or months to reach their destinations. Steamships transported Alaska-bound mail north from the west coast to Alaska’s coastal towns. The harsh Arctic weather and limited trail and road system made mail delivery difficult, and in the more isolated sections, dogs proved superior for the winter transport of mail.

Dogs were capable of covering long distances, day or night, and could travel over frozen lakes and rivers and pass through dense forests. By 1901, a network of mail trails throughout Alaska was in use, including a system that followed almost the entire length of the Yukon River. The historic 2,300-mile Iditarod Trail was the main dog trail that carried mail from Seward to Nome. Overnight roadhouses served mail carriers, freighters, and other travelers who used dog sleds or horses.

73. Yukon Mail at Eagle

The Yukon Mail at Eagle, Alaska. 

On average, dog teams pulled sleds containing between 500 – 700 pounds of mail, which meant that each dog had a load of up to 100 pounds (although they hauled less on the more challenging trails). Mail sacks usually weighed 50 pounds each. Rubber-lined waterproof bags were used to protect precious mail from snow, rain, and mud. The dogs wore moosehide moccasins to protect their feet as much as possible from jagged pieces of ice.

In 1963, the U.S. Post Office Department honored Chester Noongwook of Savoonga, on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. He was the last mail driver and with his retirement, regular sled dog mail delivery ended in Alaska.

On January 2, 2009 the U.S. Postal Service issued a new stamp commemorating Alaska’s 50th anniversary as a U.S. State (Alaska became an official U.S. territory in 1912 and the 49th state on January 3, 1959). The image selected was created by official Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race photographer Jeff Schultz, and depicts veteran sled dog racer DeeDee Jonrowe on the Iditarod trail.

Read more:

Mail and Mail Carriers at Smithsonian National Postal Museum

John Phillip Clum, Gold Rush Postal Inspector

Alaska’s First Free Mail Delivery in 1900

Sled Dog Mail, by Helen Hegener, at Last Frontier Magazine

The Last Sled Dog Mail Service

Dogsled Mail at Wikipedia

 

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