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The Cruelest Miles : The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic
"A stirring tale of survival, thanks to man's best friend . . . reflects a transcendent understanding and impeccable research."--Seattle Times
In 1925, a deadly diphtheria epidemic swept through icebound Nome, Alaska. The life-saving serum was a thousand miles away, and a blizzard was brewing. Airplanes could not fly in such conditions: only the dogs could do it. Racing against death, twenty dog teams relayed the serum across the Alaskan wilderness as newspapers nationwide headlined the drama, enthralling an entire generation. The heroic dash to Nome inspired the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race in Alaska and immortalized Balto, the lead dog whose arrival in Nome over a snow-blown trail was an American legend in the making. His bronze statue still stands in New York City's Central Park, in dedication to the "Endurance, Fidelity and Intelligence" of the dogs that saved Nome. This is their story, the greatest dog story never fully told, until now. 2 maps, 48 illustrations.
"A riveting epic."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A remarkable adventure story....The Salisburys convey the brutal conditions of the trail convincingly enough to make you shiver in your beach chair."--Newsday
"No one understands Alaska. [Officials in Washington] wire me to step over to Nome to look up a little matter, not realizing that it takes me 11 days to get there." That's the state's governor, Scott Bone, in 1922, three years before the distant, former Gold Rush outpost would need help combating an incipient diphtheria epidemic. As the Salisbury cousins amply demonstrate, upstate Alaska during winter was about as alien and forbidding as the moon-total isolation, endless night, bizarre acoustics, unreliably frozen rivers, and 60-below temperatures eventually causing both body and mind to shut down altogether. Under these circumstances, the 674-mile dogsled journey required to bring Nome the desperately needed serum seemed destined to fail, to put it mildly. The authors rightly frame the undertaking as the last gasp of an ancient technology before the impending arrival of air and road travel. As soon as news of the situation reached the "lower 48," it instantly became headline fodder for weeks. The book demonstrates the remarkable intimacy mushers develop with their lead dogs-only a handful of sled dogs have the character, courage, intelligence and will to be the lead dog. Especially heroic were renowned musher Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Balto, who undertook the treacherous and long final leg; the dog is immortalized by a statue in New York City's Central Park. The journey itself occupies the second half of the book; the authors judiciously flesh out the story with fascinating background information about Nome, the Gold Rush, dogsledding and Alaska. This is an elegantly written book, inspiring tremendous respect for the hardy mushers and their canine partners.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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W. W. Norton & Company
February 06, 2005
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