The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic Info

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"A stirring tale of survival, thanks to man's best
friend." ―Seattle Times

When a deadly diphtheria
epidemic swept through Nome, Alaska, in 1925, the local doctor knew
that without a fresh batch of antitoxin, his patients would die. The
lifesaving serum was a thousand miles away, the port was icebound, and
planes couldn't fly in blizzard conditions―only the dogs could make it.
The heroic dash of dog teams across the Alaskan wilderness to Nome
inspired the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and immortalized Balto,
the lead dog of the last team whose bronze statue still stands in New
York City's Central Park. This is the greatest dog story, never fully
told until now.

2 maps; 48 illustrations

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic:

3

Oct 30, 2008

All the time I was listening to this book I enjoyed myself.

OK, you know the book is about the race to get anti-toxin serum to the residents of Nome, Alaska. An incipient diphtheria epidemic threatened. This has come to be known as The 1925 Serum Run to Nome. 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs, primarily Siberian Huskies, raced 674 miles (1085 km) in five and a half days from Nenana in central Alaska to Nome in the northwestern corner of Alaska. This normally took 25 days! Nome is located on the All the time I was listening to this book I enjoyed myself.

OK, you know the book is about the race to get anti-toxin serum to the residents of Nome, Alaska. An incipient diphtheria epidemic threatened. This has come to be known as The 1925 Serum Run to Nome. 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs, primarily Siberian Huskies, raced 674 miles (1085 km) in five and a half days from Nenana in central Alaska to Nome in the northwestern corner of Alaska. This normally took 25 days! Nome is located on the southern edge of the Seward Peninsula, 2° south of the Arctic Circle. It lay icebound and wracked by blizzards. The temperature in the interior was at a twenty year low -50°F (-46°C). It was January and daylight hours limited. Maps were erroneous or completely lacking. How was this to be done? Airflight - in an open cockpit plane? There were three dismantled Standard J biplanes and a willing pilot in Fairbanks. There was a rail line to Nenana. Could possibly an aircraft carrier be employed? The age-old means of transport was dogsleds. Mail was at this time transported by dogsleds. A limited supply of serum was found in the Anchorage Railroad Hospital. It was transported by train to Nenana. On Governor Scott Bone's orders it was decided that this first batch of serum would be transported by dogsled relay to Nome. Two fast teams would be employed, one starting in Nome the other in Nenana, meeting at Nulato. Then a second batch was found and that too had to be dispatched. Another death occurred, which was in fact probably not caused by diphtheria. Plans were altered. Decision makers had competing agendas. All of this is discussed in great detail.

I found the step by step transport of the serum to Nome confusing at times - due to the varying viewpoints, changes in plans, shifting weather conditions and altered circumstances. More clarity would have helped. You need maps – the city Seward is not on the Seward Peninsula! Much attention is given to musher Seppala and his dog Togo as well as musher Kaasen and his dog Balto. In this book, and in the media coverage at the time, less is said about the other mushers and their dogs. The relay mushers on the segment across the interior were predominantly native Athabaskans. Kaasen and Balto kind of steal the show….unfortunately! There is a statue of Balto in NYC’s Central Park. The author does point out this controversy concerning the relative importance of the two, but I wish he had covered the other mushers more. Also, I would have appreciated more information about the disease itself. Is there an explanation for why it occurred? Those are my complaints.

So what I am saying is that the background information was great but the details of the race could have been improved. You learn about Eskimo and Athabaskans traditions and beliefs. About the preparation of food, how clothing is made, housing, how Nome was first established, the gold rush, about flora and fauna, about aircraft, mail routes, the original Russian sale of Alaska to the US. About storms. Fascinating stuff. And great dog stories. We do not give dogs the credit they deserve!

So while I read I enjoyed every bit. Afterwards I thought of things that could have been improved. I have decided to switch four to three stars, but this is still a book I can wholeheartedly recommend.

The audiobook narration by Barrett Whitener was nice and slow. You have time to think, time to absorb, time to learn.
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4

Jun 21, 2019

In the stormy and ultra-cold winter of 1924/25, the small and isolated town of Nome, Alaska, was caught unprepared when a diphtheria epidemic struck. (The town was supposed to keep anti-toxin stocks on hand, but somehow the distributor had failed to supply them.) As winter closed in and the epidemic worsened, it fell to town authorities to try to get fresh supplies brought in -- but how? Every winter, Nome was typically sealed off from Alaska's Interior and the more settled South, ports frozen In the stormy and ultra-cold winter of 1924/25, the small and isolated town of Nome, Alaska, was caught unprepared when a diphtheria epidemic struck. (The town was supposed to keep anti-toxin stocks on hand, but somehow the distributor had failed to supply them.) As winter closed in and the epidemic worsened, it fell to town authorities to try to get fresh supplies brought in -- but how? Every winter, Nome was typically sealed off from Alaska's Interior and the more settled South, ports frozen and roads impassable. Lacking roads, snowmobiles or a coherent system of inland aviation, the two options were carrying the serum overland for hundreds of miles by dog teams (dangerous), or commissioning special flights (untested and even more dangerous). Yet at risk were dozens of local residents, mostly children, who were vulnerable to the often lethal disease.

With a background of dog-team "mushing," authors Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury have fashioned an interesting and solid account of the Nome rescue attempt. The authors wisely eschew verbal fireworks and let the story tell itself simply and clearly. Here's a passage about the nature of diphtheria: Diphtheria is an airborne bacterium that thrives in the moist membranes of the throat and nose and releases a powerful toxin that makes its victims tired and apathetic. In two to five days other, more deadly symptoms would appear: a slight fever and red ulcers at the back of the throat and in the mouth. As the bacteria multiplied and more toxin was released, the ulcers thickened and expanded, forming a tough, crusty, almost leathery membrane made up of dead cells, blood clots, and dead skin. The membranes colonized ever larger portions of the mouth and the throat until it had nowhere else to go and advanced down the windpipe, slowly suffocating the victim.
Similarly, the authors do not harp on the "cute dog" aspects of famous team leaders like Togo and Balto, but let the dogs' own intuition and intelligence shine through.

While THE CRUELEST miles is a solid and worthy story, I do not feel it is a perfect book. A little more denouement is called for, how diphtheria was licked and the state became much safer with the help of permanent roads, snowmobiles (which Alaskans call "snow machines") and internal aviation -- even at the sacrifice of some of the background passages about the development of dog teams from Native antecedents and the evolution of Siberian Huskies as the dog of choice. But still, this book is well worth reading, and the selection of photographs and supplemental material is admirable. ...more
4

Jun 28, 2014

It was 1925 and at times up to 70 degrees below zero in Alaska. Nome Alaska, at the edge of the Bering Sea, just 2 degrees below the Artic Circle, was in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic. The last boat of supplies did not have the million units of serum on board. There would be a long cold unprepared winter a head of them.
In 1925 there was no air travel to Alaska in the winter - their were only open air cock pits and it was uncertain if a plane could even fly in those cold conditions. The It was 1925 and at times up to 70 degrees below zero in Alaska. Nome Alaska, at the edge of the Bering Sea, just 2 degrees below the Artic Circle, was in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic. The last boat of supplies did not have the million units of serum on board. There would be a long cold unprepared winter a head of them.
In 1925 there was no air travel to Alaska in the winter - their were only open air cock pits and it was uncertain if a plane could even fly in those cold conditions. The railway was very new to Alaska and came no where close to Nome or the interior of Alaska. The only mode of travel in the cold severe winter of 1925 was sled dog.
This non fiction novel brings to life the way cities, villages and outposts were cut off from any form of communication sans the occasional musher and dog sled that braved the treacherous conditions to make a trip to the furthest reaches of the state.
Salisbury introduces us to conditions during the winter of 1925, the normal life and burdens of the sparse Alaskan population, the men who risked their lives and the lives of their best friends - the dogs who pull the sleds.
The dogs become a large part of this story. The dogs are a large part of the lives of the men who transported the serum to Nome during 70 degrees below zero temperatures and blowing blizzards so bad the musher could not see and gave his life and trust to the dogs that lead him.
The story finishes up with the death of the sled dog as transportation and the birth of the Iditerod. It also has a short appendix which details what happened to the various people and dogs that so famously traveled the dog trails in Alaska.
I came to love a couple of the dogs so well detailed in this story. Their legacy is unmatched today.


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4

Oct 20, 2012

A diphtheria epidemic was starting in Nome, Alaska in 1925 and antitoxin was desperately needed. Nome, located close to the Arctic Circle, was no longer accessible by boat since the Bering Sea was already frozen. Some serum was transported from Anchorage to Nenana by train. Then a relay of twenty dog sled teams ran day and night for 674 miles to bring the lifesaving serum to Nome. The heroic men and their dogs traveled through blizzards and exceptionally frigid conditions--down to minus 60 A diphtheria epidemic was starting in Nome, Alaska in 1925 and antitoxin was desperately needed. Nome, located close to the Arctic Circle, was no longer accessible by boat since the Bering Sea was already frozen. Some serum was transported from Anchorage to Nenana by train. Then a relay of twenty dog sled teams ran day and night for 674 miles to bring the lifesaving serum to Nome. The heroic men and their dogs traveled through blizzards and exceptionally frigid conditions--down to minus 60 degrees.

The authors provided lots of interesting background material about diphtheria, Nome, the Gold Rush, and the Native Alaskans. They also discussed the dog sled teams, especially the lead dogs, and the responsibilities of the drivers. The second half of the book was especially exciting as the teams made the harrowing journey. Exceptionally intelligent lead dogs, such as Togo from Leonhard Seppala's team, pulled them out of potentially deadly situations. The two authors, cousins Gal Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, wrote a book that is both informative and full of human (and canine) drama. ...more
4

May 18, 2015

"Science made the antitoxin that is in Nome today, but science could not get it there. All the mechanical transportation marvels of modern times faltered in the presence of the elements... Other engines might freeze and choke, but that oldest of all motors, the heart, whose fuel is blood and whose spark is courage, never stalls but once." I didn't think I could love dogsledding more, but this book was a testament to not only the dogs' "indomitable spirit," but to their emotions, struggles, "Science made the antitoxin that is in Nome today, but science could not get it there. All the mechanical transportation marvels of modern times faltered in the presence of the elements... Other engines might freeze and choke, but that oldest of all motors, the heart, whose fuel is blood and whose spark is courage, never stalls but once." I didn't think I could love dogsledding more, but this book was a testament to not only the dogs' "indomitable spirit," but to their emotions, struggles, loyalty, and sacrifice. I was amazed at the human emotion and intellect - maybe superior to those of humans in fact - of these dogs in order to achieve what was necessary, not just desirable. It's a shame we give so much attention to other "heroes" in this survivalist space who at time put others at serious risk for their own personal gain. Every musher and dog on the 1925 serum run was wholly selfless, and they are the true heroes. The Iditarod stands as a beautiful tribute to their courage. I love me some dogsledding. ...more
4

Jul 04, 2009

As a primary grade teacher much of my life, I had the good fortune of reading The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto with many first and second grade children. Natalie Standiford wrote a simple, but compelling tale of the dog sled teams and their drivers who brought diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska to halt the spread of an epidemic. Many children are so taken in by the story, that emerging readers become bona fide readers as a result of being immersed in this story, simply told. The As a primary grade teacher much of my life, I had the good fortune of reading The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto with many first and second grade children. Natalie Standiford wrote a simple, but compelling tale of the dog sled teams and their drivers who brought diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska to halt the spread of an epidemic. Many children are so taken in by the story, that emerging readers become bona fide readers as a result of being immersed in this story, simply told. The Cruelest Miles afforded me the opportunity to understand this piece of history in its grown-up political, cultural and human contexts. After the United States acquired Alaska from Russia, we apparently were fairly inept at supporting its inhabitants in terms of building infrastructure, supporting home rule, and basically honoring the culture of the indigenous people who knew how to survive in this most inhospitable environment. Luckily, the wisdom of the native Eskimo, miner and trapper populations prevailed and the serum was sent across the vast interior via dog sled relay teams rather than trying to fly it to Nome or ship it there from Seattle. Balto was the lead dog for the final team that actually delivered the serum to Nome. However, there were many teams and many drivers; their stories are heroic. The Cruelest Miles provides much historical context, but also rich snapshots of traditional Eskimo life. There's also a significant description of the origins of the Iditarod.

I learned so many things from reading this book, but two fascinating facts that stood out to me were the origin of the word "mush" (it comes from the French "marche or marchons" meaning go forward) and that in Canada, the word Eskimo is something of a derogatory term, but in Alaska, it is acceptable.

I recommend this book, especially to teachers who would like background information about Balto, the dog sled teams and the serum run or on the Iditarod. ...more
5

Jun 30, 2014

An enthralling and informative read regarding a story I've only ever really seen in the animated film, Balto. I knew just as general knowledge that there was more to the story, but hadn't been given the opportunity to find out more until today. I really am awful with these kinds of books; only certain parts of history appeal to me, lessened if there are no animals involved. I usually struggle a bit even then, but this book pushed me past my apprehensions.

I was particularly fascinated by the An enthralling and informative read regarding a story I've only ever really seen in the animated film, Balto. I knew just as general knowledge that there was more to the story, but hadn't been given the opportunity to find out more until today. I really am awful with these kinds of books; only certain parts of history appeal to me, lessened if there are no animals involved. I usually struggle a bit even then, but this book pushed me past my apprehensions.

I was particularly fascinated by the back history of Alaska, the history of dog sledding, the origin of the word mush and the snippet facts, such as 'Eskimo' not having the same negative connotations in Alaska. I have no idea of the validity of this fact, but this book claims it to be so. I also enjoyed the lack of focus on Balto, a deserved hero but one dog in many teams to have made the journey. It was the spirit of the entire effort in the face of this enormous tragedy.

I loved this book, for all I learned from it. I read it in one sitting, and for this kind of book that's impressive for me! Highly recommended. ...more
2

Jun 09, 2016

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really tried to like this book. The topic was interesting to me and I am a dog lover but this seemed like a different book from the one the other reviewers gushed about. There were a few exciting parts but they were nestled in pages and pages of details that were (I hate to use the B word) boring. 30 plus pages on airplanes that were never even used almost caused me to abandon the book (something I never do.)

One surprising bit was that Balto received all the fame unjustly. Poor Togo, the real I really tried to like this book. The topic was interesting to me and I am a dog lover but this seemed like a different book from the one the other reviewers gushed about. There were a few exciting parts but they were nestled in pages and pages of details that were (I hate to use the B word) boring. 30 plus pages on airplanes that were never even used almost caused me to abandon the book (something I never do.)

One surprising bit was that Balto received all the fame unjustly. Poor Togo, the real champion, not to mention Sepalla, his human, were short changed. That, and the fact that after all the fame died down, Balto and his teammates were left to suffer in a cruel sideshow before someone rescued them left me outraged.

This also did not seem like "Young Adult" was the correct classification. ...more
5

Jan 18, 2012

A great heartwarming story of how dogs helped save the lives of people in the remote town of Nome in Alaska in 1925. It again validates the special relationship between humans and dogs, a fact that should not be lost to people.
3

Feb 06, 2009

Cleo recommended this one to me. It's non-fiction, but parts of it read like a novel. Others read as a textbook.

The actual story about the diphtheria outbreak makes up only a small portion of the book. I really wanted to hear more about it, but I realize that everyone was busy staying alive, not documenting the potential disaster. The bulk of the book focuses on the local people, traditions, early Alaska, and dog sledding. I'll admit that I got a little bogged down with some of the side stories. Cleo recommended this one to me. It's non-fiction, but parts of it read like a novel. Others read as a textbook.

The actual story about the diphtheria outbreak makes up only a small portion of the book. I really wanted to hear more about it, but I realize that everyone was busy staying alive, not documenting the potential disaster. The bulk of the book focuses on the local people, traditions, early Alaska, and dog sledding. I'll admit that I got a little bogged down with some of the side stories. I found the information about the early settlements and gold rushes and Eskimo populations very interesting. Some of the other detours became a bit tedious - aviation in Alaska, dog breeding, red tape etc.

I learned a lot from this book. I'd never really thought much about the settlement of Alaska, Eskimos, dog sledding or diphtheria. I am very thankful that I don't live in Nome. I'm glad that my family members have all had their DPT shots. And it was refreshing to read about so many people and faithful dogs willing to sacrifice everything to save their fellow countrymen.





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3

Sep 26, 2014

I have had this book on my TBR for a long time. I'm glad I finally got to it. This focuses on the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska in 1925. The city is inaccessible during the winter months (even today) and the doctor needed the antiviron for the illness.

After discussing it, the Governor determined dogs to be the solution. Several teams of men raced across the unforgivable landscape during the worst winter in twenty years.

There is a lot of background information on native cultures, how I have had this book on my TBR for a long time. I'm glad I finally got to it. This focuses on the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska in 1925. The city is inaccessible during the winter months (even today) and the doctor needed the antiviron for the illness.

After discussing it, the Governor determined dogs to be the solution. Several teams of men raced across the unforgivable landscape during the worst winter in twenty years.

There is a lot of background information on native cultures, how Alaska came to be Alaska and mushing. I loved once the dogs were on the trail. Some parts were slow for me. ...more
5

Aug 18, 2016

It's a bit rare for me to not want to put down a non-fiction book, but I found this absolutely gripping. The details about life in the Arctic were so tangible and fascinating, I didn't mind the rather frequent loops away from the main story (the race for anti-toxin). Though I of course knew the ending going in, I reveled in the journey and came away with a lot more knowledge. Definitely recommend to anyone who has an interest in dog sledding, Alaska, and medical epidemics.
3

Jul 05, 2015

If you're really into Alaska, AND dog mushing/the Iditarod, AND medicine, you will love this book. If, like me, your interest in most of those topics is more passing, you may still enjoy it. So far there are times when the struggle to read ahead is daunting, but for the most part it's fairly engaging.
5

May 11, 2017

Wow! What a intense tale of survival and sacrifice from the the icy edge of Alaska. This is the first time I've heard of Nome, the tiny Alaskan town only 55 miles from Russia, and the terrifying outbreak of diphtheria in 1925 during the dead of winter.
I am shocked speechless after reading about the conditions the brave dogs and men willingly went into to deliver the desperately needed serum. As someone who lives comfortably in the south, I can't imagine anyone surviving those winter conditions Wow! What a intense tale of survival and sacrifice from the the icy edge of Alaska. This is the first time I've heard of Nome, the tiny Alaskan town only 55 miles from Russia, and the terrifying outbreak of diphtheria in 1925 during the dead of winter.
I am shocked speechless after reading about the conditions the brave dogs and men willingly went into to deliver the desperately needed serum. As someone who lives comfortably in the south, I can't imagine anyone surviving those winter conditions while living in a house, nonetheless going out into it in a dogsled. Heroic and dangerously near suicidal. Those men had a huge dosage of luck left in them.
The only thing I didn't like was when I learned that the dog team belonging to Kaasen that ran the last 53 miles with the serum to Nome was sold to a shady sideshow in California after the pomp and pony show was through. For ten cents a person, you could go into a disgusting, gloomy tent and view those heroic dogs now brought low and starving because of greed.
Despite the six remaining dogs finally being put in a better home, it forever marred my opinion of Kassen. My resentment has moved on to outright hate. Who sells their loyal, lifesaving dogs to a #%# sideshow?!
Anyway, great book. I enjoyed reading it and have added Nome to my travel bucket list. I plan on someday viewing Russia on a clear, crisp day from across the water with my feet planted firmly on American soil. ...more
4

May 25, 2019

I'm obligated to start this review by noting that BALTO, the animated movie inspired by the 1925 diphtheria antitoxin race to Nome, was basically one of my favorite movies growing up. It was a staple of entertainment at my grandparents' house. The real story behind the relay of serum antitoxin to a snowbound town on the edge of the Bering Sea is very different from the cutesy animated movie version (no talking polar bears in this version), but manages to be just as interesting for the most part. I'm obligated to start this review by noting that BALTO, the animated movie inspired by the 1925 diphtheria antitoxin race to Nome, was basically one of my favorite movies growing up. It was a staple of entertainment at my grandparents' house. The real story behind the relay of serum antitoxin to a snowbound town on the edge of the Bering Sea is very different from the cutesy animated movie version (no talking polar bears in this version), but manages to be just as interesting for the most part. Other than some brief tangents discussing the history of mining in Alaska and the fledgling airline industry, the book stays on topic regarding the deadly diphtheria epidemic and the very VERY good boys (dogs) who relayed across Alaska to bring medicine to the dying children of Nome. There are all sorts of cool tidbits about the dogs and sled drivers and the history of dogsledding in Alaska, and even knowing how the story ends, this book kept me on the edge of my seat through the last half. It's a great testament to the perserverance of the human (and dog) spirit, and celebrates the unique and vital relationship between man and dog in one of the most hostile environments on Earth. ...more
5

Jun 30, 2019

This is the craziest book ever! Tales of how mail delivery, flight and planes worked in the 1920’s. How mushers and their dogs were so outrageously bonded to each other (even through life and death situations). What exactly diphtheria is and how it attacks someone’s body. Hilarious stories about how if someone badmouthed another’s dog sled team, “them’s were fighting words”. And I laughed so hard I cried when I read the part about the lawyer who represented his lead dog and argued that it was This is the craziest book ever! Tales of how mail delivery, flight and planes worked in the 1920’s. How mushers and their dogs were so outrageously bonded to each other (even through life and death situations). What exactly diphtheria is and how it attacks someone’s body. Hilarious stories about how if someone badmouthed another’s dog sled team, “them’s were fighting words”. And I laughed so hard I cried when I read the part about the lawyer who represented his lead dog and argued that it was self defense when his dog attacked and killed a sheep. 😂

This is the best book I’ve read in a long, long time! 😍 ...more
5

Feb 26, 2018

Excellent book. How could I have not read this earlier? It was published in 2003 and I had heard about the event it chronicled: the delivery of diptheria serum to ice-locked Nome, Alaska by teams of sledders and their dogs. The authors make that event so real that even knowing the end, I hung on details. I dreaded what could happen and even when something dreaded did occur, the sheer onwardness of the challenge and the writing smoothed it over. It's an upbeat,detailed, easy read. People, habits, Excellent book. How could I have not read this earlier? It was published in 2003 and I had heard about the event it chronicled: the delivery of diptheria serum to ice-locked Nome, Alaska by teams of sledders and their dogs. The authors make that event so real that even knowing the end, I hung on details. I dreaded what could happen and even when something dreaded did occur, the sheer onwardness of the challenge and the writing smoothed it over. It's an upbeat,detailed, easy read. People, habits, terrains, dangers, and dogs--lovely brave creatures. All true.

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4

Aug 02, 2019

Very interesting! As a child I loved the film Balto, but I never knew much about the actual circumstances of the diphtheria epidemic and the sled dogs and drivers who helped get the anti-toxin to Nome. The book could've done with some editing, especially the structure was off at times, but overall I found it very informative. I finally understand the reason for the controversy surrounding the dogs Balto and Togo, and I especially loved to read about the strength and intelligence of the sled Very interesting! As a child I loved the film Balto, but I never knew much about the actual circumstances of the diphtheria epidemic and the sled dogs and drivers who helped get the anti-toxin to Nome. The book could've done with some editing, especially the structure was off at times, but overall I found it very informative. I finally understand the reason for the controversy surrounding the dogs Balto and Togo, and I especially loved to read about the strength and intelligence of the sled dogs. ...more
4

Oct 01, 2019

Wow! What a great book, expertly researched and told. The amazing story of the 1925 serum run on dog sled to save a community from a diphtheria outbreak. A page-turner and fabulous read!
5

Oct 14, 2015

This is one of those amazing non-fiction adventure books, on the level with Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, and Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival. (That's funny, I just now noticed they all have subtitles. Must somehow be typical of the genre.) I had heard of Balto, but I didn't know there was a statue of him, and I had never heard the story that made This is one of those amazing non-fiction adventure books, on the level with Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, and Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival. (That's funny, I just now noticed they all have subtitles. Must somehow be typical of the genre.) I had heard of Balto, but I didn't know there was a statue of him, and I had never heard the story that made him famous. The Salisburies tell the story expertly, paying due respect to the people and dogs involved, and the utmost respect to the villian, Mother Nature. After reading this book I feel especially fond not of Balto, who crossed the finish line, but more of Togo, the lead dog of the team that logged the most miles of the relay. His driver (who, correspondingly, logged the most miles of all the drivers) was heartbroken when he heard about the statue because he claimed "they made a statue of the wrong dog." Every single dog, of course (over 100) and every single driver (around twenty), played their part and deserve credit.

The book contains many incredible stories of these dogs' feats. For them and their drivers, this was just another day's work and duty. But to the world, they were doing something extraordinary, braving negative hurts-to-even-think-about temperatures, thin ice and blizzards in order to expedite the delivery of medicine to a community cut off from civilization eight months out of every year. I thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner, and I have even more faith than ever in the intelligence and loyalty of man's best friend. ...more
4

Jun 11, 2013

It is not true that it is hard to go wrong with a dog story. But the authors here have done a wonderful job of a dog and human story. I was going to say that they "recount" but I think "recreate" is a better description of what they have done, the story of the dog sled relay that brought diphtheria antitoxin to winter-isolated Nome, Alaska in 1925 in some of the worst weather the locals had seen. The Salisbury's give us the background-how the native Alaskans had used dogs, how things had changed It is not true that it is hard to go wrong with a dog story. But the authors here have done a wonderful job of a dog and human story. I was going to say that they "recount" but I think "recreate" is a better description of what they have done, the story of the dog sled relay that brought diphtheria antitoxin to winter-isolated Nome, Alaska in 1925 in some of the worst weather the locals had seen. The Salisbury's give us the background-how the native Alaskans had used dogs, how things had changed upon the arrival of Europeans, the status of air travel in Alaska at the time, the politics, and the key people in the crisis. Their descriptions of the hazards of dog sled travel when the temperatures are below -40 degrees F., when sleds hit wind gusts of 75 MPH, when the ice shifts, when ice fog forms, when there is a whiteout are harrowing and beautiful.
Highly recommended. ...more
5

Jan 01, 2012

This book will keep you on the edge of your seat. In 1925, a diphtheria epidemic was beginning in the remote Alaska town of Nome. Diphtheria was a deadly scourge in those days. Antitoxin was desperately needed to save lives - without it, doctors were helpless, and could only watch as the disease took more lives. It was winter - roads were impassable, sea channels were frozen, and air travel was in its infancy, and far too unreliable and dangerous in the Alaskan winter.
This is the story of the This book will keep you on the edge of your seat. In 1925, a diphtheria epidemic was beginning in the remote Alaska town of Nome. Diphtheria was a deadly scourge in those days. Antitoxin was desperately needed to save lives - without it, doctors were helpless, and could only watch as the disease took more lives. It was winter - roads were impassable, sea channels were frozen, and air travel was in its infancy, and far too unreliable and dangerous in the Alaskan winter.
This is the story of the brave heroes - human and canine - who risked their lives racing from Anchorage to Nome to deliver the life-saving antitoxin by dogsled. The dangers they faced are told in gritty, white-knuckle detail. If you enjoy history, or relish a gut-wrenching adventure story - read this book. ...more
2

Feb 10, 2012



I lived in Fairbanks for 8 years and I love all things Alaska. However I was a little disappointed after reading this book. The actual story about the diphtheria outbreak makes up only a small portion of the book and I really wanted to learn more about it. The book primarily focuses on the local people, traditions, early Alaska, dog sledding, and early aviation. There are so many side stories that describe the aforementioned it is easy to get bogged down. I understand this information is

I lived in Fairbanks for 8 years and I love all things Alaska. However I was a little disappointed after reading this book. The actual story about the diphtheria outbreak makes up only a small portion of the book and I really wanted to learn more about it. The book primarily focuses on the local people, traditions, early Alaska, dog sledding, and early aviation. There are so many side stories that describe the aforementioned it is easy to get bogged down. I understand this information is pertinent as it illustrates what life was like but there was a little too much detail. It might have been more useful for someone who has never set foot in Alaska or endured an Alaskan winter. Overall I was a little disappointed as the read was a little dry and very tedious.

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5

Aug 17, 2010

I am always so inspired to read storys about human determination. Dogsledding during the early days of Alaska combined the intimacy, intelligence, determination, and strength of the human/canine relationship. This book is wonderfully written and takes the reader right back to what it was like to live in Alaska during the Goldrush days. If you love dogs you will not be able to put this book down.
4

Jun 23, 2012

Diphtheria strikes Nome, Alaska. It is isolated, iced in, and no way to get the antitoxin to stem the epidemic except by sled dogs. This is the heroic account of the men and dogs that risked life and limb to mush through blizzard, gales, and -60 degree temperatures over 700 miles. Interesting history of Nome (the original gold rushers are not any different from the ones (idiots) on the Gold Rush cable show), the history of sled dogs, and the devastation of diphtheria. GET YOUR KIDS IMMUNIZED!

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