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 NatGeo Expedition Contest.
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swanny

USA
869 Posts

Posted - 07/14/2014 :  11:20:33 PM  Show Profile  Visit swanny's Homepage  Reply with Quote
National Geographic is conducting a contest called Expedition Granted, in which they will grant the winner a $50K grant to undertake his or her dream expedition.

With a lot of help from a great crew of friends I've submitted an entry into the contest. We are proposing to retrace Hudson Stuck's 1905-06 tour from Fairbanks through Central, Fort Yukon, Venetie (Chandalar Village), Coldfoot, Bettles, Allakaket and Alatna, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Candle, Council, Nome, returning back over the Kaltag Portage to the Yukon, the Yukon to the Tanana and the Tanana back to Fairbanks.

I am proposing to do the trip using my historical types of sled dogs and historically authentic clothing and equipment. I'll be accompanied by one or more modern racing teams and we have a two very experienced mushing potographer / videographers to document the journey.

We plan to set up a dedicated blog for the project where we will describe the history and document every step of the process, from the earliest planning, budgeting and logistics phases, the process of training our teams and ourselves for the project, and to the extent that internet connectivity allows, share our project and things we observe and learn through the course of our tour.

If we win the grant we'll plan to execute the expedition proper the winter of 2015-16, with an itinerary similar to Stuck's.

So far our crew includes myself, Scott Chesney, Donna Quante, Karen Ramstead and Dr. Jerry Vanek. Yep, I'm actually the least experienced person in the crew thus far.

Of course to win the prize we have to play the game. Our proposal video is on-line on the NatGeo site (I'll post a link below). Folks have a chance to check it out and ask questions until September 16th. That is our opportunity to impress the judges who select the top projects for the final stage of the contest, and where we need people to ask questions that will help us show how our proposal meets the judging criteria. Here's the criteria from NatGeo's site:

"
Originality (50%): How original is the project? Is it a new idea or does it build upon an existing one? Does it expand upon the existing notion of exploration and push boundaries into uncharted territory?

Impact (30%): Does the project make a positive contribution to the local or global community? Does the idea have the potential to connect with the hearts and minds of others?

Viability (20%): Can the project be fully realized (with the right amount of time and money)? Will National Geographic's $50K prize allow for a healthy project start or full project execution?"

If we make the cut the contest will be open to public voting between Sept. 16th and 29th. The project earning the most votes will be the winner.

Scott and Donna collaborated on the proposal video, and even if you don't want to play the game it provides some sweet eye candy for dog mushers. You can check it out at http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/becoming-hudson-stuck/

Swanny


A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other. William Francis Butler

http://www.tworiversak.com/mushing.htm

Linda Lange

USA
737 Posts

Posted - 07/15/2014 :  5:46:22 PM  Show Profile  Visit Linda Lange's Homepage  Reply with Quote
This is fantastic...wish I could vote now!

LML

http://www.michigandogdrivers.org
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sallydawson

USA
831 Posts

Posted - 07/15/2014 :  7:31:44 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Heck with voting - I want to go too!!

Great idea, Swanny! though I take minor tongue-in-cheek exception to the term 'authentic'. I work in medieval and renaissance music performance, and much as we would like it to be 'authentic', the closest we are able to come in that field is 'historicly informed'.

This might 'allow' you things like plastic runners and steel bolts , Hope you win, or at least get someone to fund the trip. Sounds awesome!

Sally

Sally J. Dawson and the Mushing'dales
N1BCF; "RED HAT" Musher
Live each day as if it is your last
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Log Dog

USA
274 Posts

Posted - 07/16/2014 :  12:27:44 AM  Show Profile  Visit Log Dog's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Wow Swanny! I've read 10,000 Miles by Dog Sled. Didn't he travel with 5 or 6 dogs pulling a sled with all their supplies while the humans broke trail with snow shoes or walked behind the sled? It was a great luxury to jump on the sled and catch a ride as I recall. Just how authentic are you going to get ?

Log Dog
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MSeavey

USA
202 Posts

Posted - 07/16/2014 :  03:19:06 AM  Show Profile  Visit MSeavey's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Didn't the dogs have to hunt for their own food at night? I always wondered why they came back.

Good luck. Sounds cool. I hope the 50 large covers the cost.
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swanny

USA
869 Posts

Posted - 07/16/2014 :  10:51:18 PM  Show Profile  Visit swanny's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sallydawson

I work in medieval and renaissance music performance, and much as we would like it to be 'authentic', the closest we are able to come in that field is 'historicly informed'.

This might 'allow' you things like plastic runners and steel bolts , Hope you win, or at least get someone to fund the trip. Sounds awesome!

Sally



My historical focus is primarily on the Canadian fur-trade ca 1763 to roughly 1863, but with my team the goal is to be able to accurately portray any period of mushing history between 1763 and 1963, roughly the time those noisy, smoke-belching snow machines were catching on as a viable means of transportation.

I can assure you that a fair number of "historical" reenactment events set in the 18th and 19th centuries could best be described as 'historically misinformed';).

The really good ones, however, maintain a strict standard of authenticity that is enforced by event organizers. Anything that is questioned must be supported by primary historical documentation - in other words a recorded first hand account. That's what I strive to do as a reenactor, though it is inevitable that some anachronisms end up coming along. My 21st century medications are a good example, as are chemical hand warmers. Obviously my digital camera can't even be camouflaged as something "historical".

One of the major difficulties with "doing"a truly accurate portrayal of the medieval or renaissance periods is a relative lack of primary information (first hand accounts) and solid archaeological evidence. There just isn't a lot of solid evidence to allow one to confidently state that his or her portrayal is authentic - or sometimes even close.

18th and 19th century are relatively easier, because there is more reliable information. Primary documentation (first hand observations) is more readily available and written in language similar enough to our own modern terminology that it's much easier to interpret and determine what is, or is not, authentic.

Early 20th century is easier yet because those folks left so many first hand accounts, images, and very reliable photographs. Stuck's book qualifies as an excellent primary resource, so that takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.

Yes, my historical outfit will have some anachronisms, and I won't be shy about pointing them out. I feel the safety of my team trumps authenticity, and I feel a modern bar-brake is safer and more reliable than a historical spring-board brake, some of the terrain justifies the increased surface area of a drag mat over that which I can muster with a size-8 moccasin sole, and snow hooks are certainly a more reliable way of snubbing a team than just tossing the sled on it's side and hollering "stay".

I've talked to a lot of old timers, every one of which has warned me to NOT use iron runners - too darned hard on the dogs, they say. I'll accept their advice, just as Stuck frequently accepted advice from folks with more experience.

I am pretty confident that I can achieve at least a 90% authentic reenactment, though. If you notice something that seems inauthentic ask if I an document it and I'll give you an honest answer and explanation.

quote:
Wow Swanny! I've read 10,000 Miles by Dog Sled. Didn't he travel with 5 or 6 dogs pulling a sled with all their supplies while the humans broke trail with snow shoes or walked behind the sled? It was a great luxury to jump on the sled and catch a ride as I recall. Just how authentic are you going to get ?


On his 1905-06 trip, Stuck left Fairbanks with a basket sled and team of 6 dogs, drawing what he estimated to be 500 lb. of load. Riding was indeed a luxury for him and of course he learned a LOT on that trip. In a different forum, Joe May pointed out that Stuck almost always had a Native kid or two along to help break trail, as well.

One of the things Stuck learned was that a newly purchased alleged 'leader' he'd bought was pretty useless. He wrote "Jimmy was a handsome beast, the handsomest I ever owned and the costliest, but as I learned later from one who knew his history, had "travelled on his looks" his entire life. He earned the name of "Jimmy the Fake."

Later in his book (page 398), after he'd earned some hard experience, Stuck wrote "Five dogs are usually considered the minimum team, and seven dogs makes a good team. A good, quick traveling load for a dog team is 50 lb. to the dog, on ordinary trails." He then went on to describe the difference between traveling and freighting.

Stuck was young, skinny and in GREAT physical shape. I'm a member of Mitch's generation and though I'm in pretty good shape I'm not inclined to spend days and days and days on snowshoes, so I'll likely start the expedition with a team of 9. I've hauled loads of 500# plus me with a team of 9 on some pretty significant terrain, and I found it manageable (huff, huff, huff, puff)

quote:
Didn't the dogs have to hunt for their own food at night? I always wondered why they came back.


Nope. Stuck and his traveling companions fed the dogs once each night, right after they finished their own supper. He actually had quite a bit to say about dog food. In one instance he wrote "There are some who feed straight fish, and, if the fish be king salmon of the best quality, the dogs do well enough on it. But on any long run it is decidedly economical to cook for the dogs - not so much from the standpoint of direct cost as from that of weight and ease of hauling. An hundred pounds of fish plus an hundred pounds of rice plus fifty pounds of tallow will go a great deal farther than two hundred fifty pounds of fish alone."

I don't recall any document from the historical fur trade indicating dogs being loosed to hunt their own food at night during the working season, though at many 18th and 19th century fur-trade posts and Native camps they weren't (intentionally) fed during summer, but rather left to roam free and fend for themselves. There are a lot of notations in fur-trade journals and correspondence describing what a nuisance such dogs made of themselves. They were particularly hard on parchment windows as well as just about anything made of organic material casually set to one side.

A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other. William Francis Butler

http://www.tworiversak.com/mushing.htm
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Log Dog

USA
274 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2014 :  02:59:35 AM  Show Profile  Visit Log Dog's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I thought the same thing Mr. May mentioned. He did employ young able bodied native men to accompany him to break trail and such. I'm told this was a common practice at the turn of the previous century. Mail carriers and others often brought young native men along on their long trips. The rule of thumb, at least in Bristol Bay, was to travel in pairs; 1 team of dogs, 1 sled and two men. The way it has been described to me is that it was sort of an apprenticeship. Not difficult to imagine. An experienced 50 year old man is leaving his wife, 10 children and 8 grandchildren for a long trip and knows there will be plenty of trail breaking and difficult country to cross. He's not going to get another 50 year old with a family and other reasons to abandon the trip. Instead he picks an 18 year old fella full of beans who needs something to do. The 18 year old is more than eager to travel and see someplace new so they partner up and off they go. The old men call this "Going Partners" and still use the term "Partner" as a true term of endearment for other men they have history with and feel a connection to. They don't throw the word around lightly like they were in Texas, it means something more.

In cross country travel an extra person can be a great help. Two mushers, each with a team, can also work things out. You're talking about 3 teams if I understand correctly Swanny. Have you thought about brining 1 or two wiry outdoorsy types to help with the journey like Hudson Stuck did?

Kyle

Log Dog
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swanny

USA
869 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2014 :  1:48:40 PM  Show Profile  Visit swanny's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Kyle, instead of the young guy on snowshoes, our crew thus far consists of some snow-gos (practical matter) as well as dog teams. The contest rules require the expedition be documented, and something like this deserves to be documented well, (maybe a DVD and/or book afterward).

We have two of the best experienced dog mushing photographer/videographers on board. Scott Chesney and Donna Quante. Scott has done the Vaughn Serum Run '25 twice (maybe 3 times?) and Donna has been mushing for a good, long while as well. They suggested they should be on snowmachines rather than sleds so they can dash ahead and get more than just dog-butt pictures and videos. There just isn't a practical way to do a good job of photography from the back of a sled.

I'll be running my historical team and rig - and Karen Ramstead will be bringing her pure-bred Siberians and modern gear. We will probably be recruiting an Alaskan husky team in the Two Rivers area as a second modern team. The two modern teams should be able to provide a really good cross sampling of modern dogs, equipment, methods, &c for us to contrast and compare.

Dr. Jerry Vanek (DMV) will be riding sweep on a snow machine, in case we need to drop a dog from a team and transport. He's done a little bit of everything when it comes to mushing, including expeditions, so I can't imagine finding a better or more experienced crew for this.

Mitch mentioned his hope that $50K will cover the expedition. It won't - but it will provide a really good foundation. It's pretty clear we're going to have to hustle for sponsors and additional funding. We still have to cover the mortgages, dog food bills, utilities and other expenses at home, as well as on the trail.

I nonetheless think we can do it. Not easily, but we can do it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. I see some challenges coming, but none that are insurmountable.

A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other. William Francis Butler

http://www.tworiversak.com/mushing.htm
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Log Dog

USA
274 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2014 :  6:16:55 PM  Show Profile  Visit Log Dog's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Snow machines do trump snow shoes. Keep us posted as things evolve.

Kyle

Log Dog
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Sirius

USA
557 Posts

Posted - 07/20/2014 :  1:58:11 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That is exciting and it also sounds like a lot of work. When you get the grant then you will have to go and do it. What do you know about the likely physical condition of the route now and then? I snowshoed a mile or two in several feet of new snow a few times in my life. I couldn't do more and I needed recovery time. Did they back then on that route? Then there was cutting alders and willows.

When the film Iron Will was made near me one of the biggest obstacles was finding open areas that could be filmed that did not have a snowmobile track within sight. I would be interested, if you cover the whole route, in a documentation of the physical condition of the route. Can you include that? I suspect that plowed gravel roads and groomed snowmobile trails will be a major component of your route. It is still a lot of outside time. What is the mileage of your planned route? Can you compare trail breaking efforts along the route now and then? Now will involve digging out the lead snowmobile repeatedly if you find a spot that requires it. Dr. Jerry Vanek sure does get around the globe. Can you imagine getting a grant to retrace the route Dr. Jerry Vanek has traveled in his lifetime by air, land, and sea? He is currently speaking at the Antarctic symposium in Maine, USA.
Neil Rasmussen
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swanny

USA
869 Posts

Posted - 07/21/2014 :  10:40:47 PM  Show Profile  Visit swanny's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Sirius

What do you know about the likely physical condition of the route now and then?

I snowshoed a mile or two in several feet of new snow a few times in my life. I couldn't do more and I needed recovery time. Did they back then on that route? Then there was cutting alders and willows.

I would be interested, if you cover the whole route, in a documentation of the physical condition of the route. Can you include that? I suspect that plowed gravel roads and groomed snowmobile trails will be a major component of your route. It is still a lot of outside time. What is the mileage of your planned route? Can you compare trail breaking efforts along the route now and then?

Can you imagine getting a grant to retrace the route Dr. Jerry Vanek has traveled in his lifetime by air, land, and sea? He is currently speaking at the Antarctic symposium in Maine, USA.
Neil Rasmussen



Hudson Stuck estimated the trip as 2200 miles. When I drew the route out using TOPO software, it worked out to 1943, so it's reasonable to guess somewhere between 1950 and 2000 miles (more or less). It's not an unreasonable mileage, close to what a musher running both the Yukon Quest and I'rod would be doing in races alone, not including pre-race training.

Certainly conditions have changed HUGELY around Fairbanks. Given the highway system and so forth, we will probably have to truck the teams from town to Chatanika (Cleary City) at the start. Stuck ran the Chatanika River (and wrote a long, detailed discourse on overflow and proper footwear about it). We can do the same, turning up McManus Cr to 12 Mile Summit. That will probably be easier than the shoulder of the highway becuase, well, there is no shoulder to the Steese highway through most of that section. I imagine we'll be breaking our own trail over 12 Mile and Eagle Summits, and on the Quest trail to Central, as that should be early December and I doubt the Yukon Quest trail breakers will have been through there yet. I don't know how much casual snow machine traffic that country gets.

From there, it's up or along the Steese to Circle, the old trail (the Quest follows Birch Creek instead). From there trail conditions will depend on local traffic and we'll need to make inquiries as we go. Comparing then and now is a lot of what the expedition is about.

"Groomed" snow machine trails? Probably not so much, though well traveled snow machine trails are likely to be the rule through much of it. Some of the trails Stuck more or less pioneered see a fair amount of inter-village traffic today, and some that were well traveled in his day aren't followed much at all today. I think we mostly just need to be prepared to deal with whatever gets thrown our way - but that's just the nature of cross country travel. I've been told that some sections that Stuck and has companions had a dreadful time crossing are today traveled fairly frequently by villagers.

Times change, and one of the expedition goals is to document what has changed, and what remains the same, or nearly the same.

quote:
originally posted by Logdog I thought the same thing Mr. May mentioned. He did employ young able bodied native men to accompany him to break trail and such. I'm told this was a common practice at the turn of the previous century. Mail carriers and others often brought young native men along on their long trips.


That's confirmed in some of the later chapters of Stuck's book, as well as some others that are available out there. Those old gee pole operations required two guys just to handle the sled, one on the handle bars and one on the gee pole, often harnessed to the sled just like one of the dogs. I'm telling ya, those early 20th century freighters and mail carriers were TOUGH ol' boys. In some ways traveling was easier than freighting, but the general rule of thumb seems to have been the buddy system.

That was much the case in most of the Canadian and even American Rocky Mountain fur-trade. The myth of the lone mountain man trapping in territory claimed by hostile "savages" is very much a myth, it just happens to be a myth that most Americans very much want to embrace.

A good dog is so much a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of one for that of the other. William Francis Butler

http://www.tworiversak.com/mushing.htm

Edited by - swanny on 07/21/2014 10:42:46 PM
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kissAnew

Canada
105 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2016 :  10:16:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
swanny
This is so awesome. It sounds like a real adventure. I have good feelings about your venture. I am happy for you and everyone else who may "tune-in" but also I am kind of jealous.
I would love to re-trace the HBC freight haul trail used by my grandfather but my body and mind are no longer able to handle the rigors of such a journey.
I wish you well in all aspects of your life.
I hope also to see the book and/or video presentation when you are done.
Blessings
Where would I send sponcership? I aint wealthy so it wouldn't be much but I would still like to show my support.
Is it OK to say this on SDC Talk?

I think Life is Beauty waiting to be found and appreciated. ...like mushing.
kissAnew(the long A sound) ="old man" in language of Ininiwak (Humans/People[Cree])
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