From Nome, Alaska to Anadyr, Russia
Since December my research and writing has been focused on the historic 1991 Hope Race from Nome, Alaska, to Anadyr, Russia. The genesis of this book came about during a visit to the Alaskan artist Jon Van Zyle in December, when I commented on an unusual sled displayed on the ceiling of his studio. That led to stories of the race, which led to pulling out a photo album, which led to an hour or more of poring over the photos, more stories, more artifacts from the adventures, and now, a few weeks later, Jon and I are working together on this book.
Jon was one of three people who officially co-chaired the race, the others being Leo Rasmussen from Nome, and Jerry Tokar from Anchorage. As a Race Judge, Jon was the only one of the three who physically accompanied the eight mushers from four countries who competed in the race, along with race Marshal Earl Norris, Race Judge Barbara Moore, Race Veterinarian Jim Leach, official photographer Frank Flavin, and a couple of other people. The race route had the mushers leaving Nome by dog team and traveling to Teller and Wales, Alaska. From Wales they loaded their teams into big orange Russian helicopters for a flight across the Bering Strait to Uelen, and then continued by dogsled through many small villages, through the larger seaport settlement of Provideniya, and finally to Anadyr, the easternmost town in Russia. The total distance was between 1,000 to 1,200 miles.
The mushers in the 1991 race were Scott Cameron (Palmer, Alaska), Nicolai Ettyne (Neshkan, USSR), Kazuo Kojima (Tokyo, Japan), Kate Persons (Sikusuilaq Springs, Alaska), Ketil Reitan (Kaktovik, Alaska), Mary Shields (Fairbanks, Alaska), Peter Thomann (Willow, Alaska), and Frank Turner (Pelly Crossing, Yukon Territory, Canada). Seven Russian mushers also took part in the race.
Jon shared this commentary and announcement of the book project on Facebook in January:
“We sent the invitations to various mushers who would be willing to participate in a ”race ” that was not a race,” but a learning experience for the Chukchi …The Chukchi have driven dog teams for thousands of years, and certainly know how to travel, or hunt, etc. with them … But at that time, they did not understand the ”in’s and outs” of long distant racing … As you know, traveling and racing are two different things … Also, the Olympics were thinking about including dog races in the winter Olympics ( a spectator sport ), as it was in the 1930’s … and I’m sure the Russians had alternative plans to learn the sport from us to win the Olympics … We set the race up for the Chukchi mushers, as a ” learn how to do this, ” (learn feeding, learn conserving dogs, learn ”setting up ” a dog team, etc. etc. ) …and then at two or three checkpoints before the finish, then start ”racing ” … It worked well … Especially in the feeding of their dog teams … Proven by the race results at the finish line … And that the Hope Race is still active, ( albeit shorter ) but it still continues … which is a nice legacy for us all ….”
Jon has presented me with an incredible array of paperwork, booklets, maps, photographs, statements, news releases, and his personal trail journal for the race, and this is only the beginning of my research. I am looking forward to the journey ahead as I bring this book into print. Those who have followed my work for a few years will know that I have taken on some major subjects in my research, writing, and publishing, but I honestly believe this book about the inaugural Hope/Nadezhda Race will be one of the most historically important, engaging, and enjoyable!