Sunday, May 03, 2009

Nunavut Dog Sledding

It's been rather warm here the past few days by high arctic standards so I'm attributing my mental sluggishness to this current heat wave. I know, I know....-6C(!)....quite unbearable. How do people do it? Anyhow, something I meant to do several days ago now (other than laundry) was a short post as a follow-up to the dog sled races just to give readers a better idea of what the sleds look like and how the dogs are hitched. These aren't the best pictures but hopefully they should suffice. For anyone looking for more information on dog sledding, I invite them to check out some of the Yukon blogs on my sidebar. The sleds are much different and the dogs are hitched to the sled differently but they should give you a good idea of the sport and can speak with much greater expertise on the topic than I can. Yukon Musher and Yukon Yahoos are good examples and both have links to a number of other canine-related blogs on their respective sidebars.

Here is one of my better shots of a qamutiq, the traditional Inuit sled. Originally, of course, they were not built out of wood. Rather, whale bone was used. I have however, seen examples of where caribou antler is used for runners and even a one instance where a number of frozen fish were wrapped in seal skins to make some transportation in a pinch. In the North, one has to be constantly adapting and resourceful. While you can't really tell from the picture below, I should add that, with the exception of some plastic strips along the bottom of the runners, the entire sled is tied together with rope lashings.

Most people are familiar with the tandem hitch which is used in the West where you have to negotiate around trees without the dogs' traces becoming entangled. In the Eastern Arctic, the fan hitch is used. Each dog has a separate trace attached to a main line. As the name suggests, this allows the dogs to fan out and find the best footing over the ice and snow, without having to worry about Here is the best shot I have at the moment which shows the use of the fan hitch.


Lisa said...

I had no idea there were different ways to hitch dogs to a dog sled. In fact I am quite the dog sled dummy.

Only recently making a few trips up north I find myself obsessed with the idea of dog sledding.

Your blog is super interesting...wondering if you may want to post a picture up on this online time capsule I have been working with....this is the only 'dog sled' picture we have so far, he he