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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Husky - A Piece of Antarctic History.

My wife and I have a  love of trained dogs and their company. So it begged the question when coming to Antarctica, what ever happened to the famed Antarctic Husky. Well, they don't exist here anymore except in the memories of those who worked and loved them in past. Australia had some 267 huskies in total in Antarctica from 1950 to  December 1993 when the last four dogs arrived in Hobart from Mawson.In  1949-1950 a French expedition,after failing to reach the Antarctic coast, returned to Melbourne and placed their unwanted dogs in the Melbourne zoo. These dogs along with their pups become the property of the Australian Government and formed the basis of the future husky teams for Australian Antarctic expeditions. The dogs where used where mechanical devices where unable to go in the exploration of the continent. The dogs were able to sense dangers in the sea ice and crevasses that no man was able to see. Just as importantly, the moral of the expeditioners was boosted by the presence of the animal. However, through the campaigning of Greenpeace and others, the dogs where removed. As a signatory to the Madrid protocol, which excludes the use or introduction of non native species to Antarctica, Australia was compelled to abide by this treaty.I guess the best thing about the end to this historical saga is that all remaining working dogs (19 adult and 3 pups)went to USA to continue their working life as husky team members. Some went onto North pole explorations. The last four dogs off Antarctica,Morrie,Bonza,Elwood and Ursa, were too old to continue as working dogs but found their way into the homes of former experienced expeditioners and dog handlers in Tasmania and Victoria. A great account of the history of the Husky is in a book edited by Shelagh Robinson, put out by Kangaroo Press, ISBN 0864177267. There was also a doco called, "The Last Husky" G rated. Don't you just love a good story ending when a dogs involved...! Oh, nearly forgot, the last actual Husky off Antarctica was Morrie.

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