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T O P I C    R E V I E W
swanny Posted - 04/22/2014 : 9:24:58 PM
You could knock me over with a feather this afternoon. I just got back from the post office, where I received a mystery package. A brand new book, published by UAF Press. It's HARNESSED TO THE POLE; SLEDGE DOGS IN SERVICE TO AMERICAN EXPLORERS OF THE ARCTIC, 1853-1909 by Sheila Nickerson. It covers the dogs used by 8 different explorers in 10 historical expeditions, starting with Elisha Kane and ending with Robert Peary.

Flipping through it quickly I found all the things I look for in a credible tertiary resource. It is well footnoted, has a full bibliography and is well indexed. Everything needed to find the primary documents on which the book is based. The illustrations are primarily historical etchings and photographs.

I didn't even know the book existed, but here it is and the only clue to why I receive it is "Compliments of the Publisher" on the packing list.

I have no way of knowing who might have suggested sending it to me, but whoever you are - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
8   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Qimmiq Posted - 09/16/2014 : 5:10:06 PM
Red Wolf, I have recently spoken with Sheila Nickerson, the author, who told me she researched this book for ten years and she made no mention about going to the other pole. But there are lots of books about Antarctic travel by dog team. Some are written by modern explorer adventurers, but most are by the doggy men of the golden age of Antarctic exploration, both Australians and the men of the Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS), now known as the British Antarctic Survey. To name but a few: Of Dogs and Men by Kevin Walton and Rick Atkinson, The Doggy Men by Hwfa (pronounced "Hoof") Jones, Of Ice and Men by Sir Vivian "Bunny" Fuchs. There are modern books about historical events such as The Lost Men by Kelly Tyler-Lewis. You can find book reviews on Antarctic life with dogs, hilarious and poignant personal recollections (prose and poetry) by "Fids" with lots of photos as well as scientific reports on physiology, health, diseases, nutrition and care of the British Antarctic Huskies (Inuit Dogs) in The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog (thefanhitch.org). The September 2014 issue of The Fan Hitch, due out in a few days, will have a wonderful image of a BAS Husky, Pancho, in a most unusual pose. His photo with an explanation of his particular "trick" will be leading off the annual index of articles. Be sure to check it out.
RedWolf Posted - 09/16/2014 : 4:32:38 PM
It's an amazing book! (I wonder if the author plans to do one on Antarctic sled dogs next, since there were a few passing references within?)
swanny Posted - 06/21/2014 : 5:33:01 PM
Qimmiq, it strikes me as a good review, well suited to a general audience.

History isn't always pretty. Culture, all cultures, are dynamic and that which was considered acceptable and humane historically is today perceived far differently.

From our modern perspective treatment of the explorer's sled dogs was beyond brutal - in most of North America anyone who treated their dogs the same way today would be looking at serious jail time.

Ms. Nickerson proved herself an excellent historical researcher and interpreter in this book. Her interpretation of those primary documents that I've also read seems to be spot on, enough so that I feel I can trust her interpretation of those documents I haven't yet read, but probably will in the future.

If you truly love dogs it is not an easy read. It is a factual read, and as a general rule the dogs were no more harshly treated than were their masters - some starved, some went raving mad, and some died horrible deaths that most modern folks can't even imagine.

It's definitely not a warm and fuzzy book. Like the climate in which it is set it is cold, harsh and very real.
Qimmiq Posted - 06/20/2014 : 3:37:22 PM
I, too, received a review copy of Sheila Nickerson's Harnessed to the Pole. Thought is was important enough to do a formal review, and so here it is in the June 2014 issue of The Fan Hitch, journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.

http://thefanhitch.org/V16N3/V16N3BookReview.html

I hope folks are not put off from reading Harnessed to the Pole by my characterization of the life of these Inuit Dogs as "brutal". The book tells stories that need to be read in order to fully appreciate this aspect of polar history and the vital role this aboriginal landrace played.

When I do media reviews I always keep my fingers crossed that I have represented the contents honestly and accurately. Just heard back from the publisher and was relieve to know he approved of my take on the book. May hear from the author, too
swanny Posted - 04/25/2014 : 11:11:12 PM
I learned who made the recommendation for the comp copy.

Meanwhile, I've finished the first 5 chapters and my impression remains very favorable. The author has combed through the primary documents as thoroughly as possible to capture every reference to the dogs used in their expeditions, and her interpretation of their relationships with their dogs seems to reflect and explain the complexity of those relationships very well.

It's easier and more exciting reading than most historical texts, the author's interpretation of the factual information available is very reasonable. Nothing so far has been taken out of the original context.

I think it is a volume that any student of mushing history will appreciate and enjoy.
Laughing-Bear Posted - 04/23/2014 : 11:12:31 PM
Swanny thank you for the tip, I'll find a copy.

Blessings, Laughing-Bear
balzakjeff Posted - 04/23/2014 : 8:43:52 PM
It's on Amazon.

Jeff
Log Dog Posted - 04/23/2014 : 12:46:43 PM
Cool. Where can I get a copy?

Kyle

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