The Impossible Rescue by Martin W. Sandler

The Impossible Rescue by Martin W. Sandler

Author:Martin W. Sandler [Sandler, Martin W.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6634-7
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Published: 2012-10-29T16:00:00+00:00

As Bertholf would discover, traveling with such heavy loads, even over relatively unchallenging terrain, could present potential problems.

By this time, Bertholf, while still hardly a veteran of the frozen North, had learned much about how to cope with the hardships of Arctic winter travel. In particular, he had become skilled in meeting the challenge of camping out overnight in the frozen wilderness areas between villages.

“One of us,” Bertholf would write, “would pitch the tent while another chopped a supply of firewood, and still another unharnessed the dogs and unloaded the sleds, [making sure that the provisions were securely covered,] for the dogs would devour everything left within reach. Boots or . . . clothing left carelessly exposed were always found half chewed in the morning, for the poor little fellows never get a square meal when travelling in the winter, and are ravenous. We would then start the fire in the stove, and another outside the tent to help melt the snow or ice, to obtain water for drinking and cooking. The beans, which had been boiled before starting, were always frozen so solid they had to be chopped off with the axe, and indeed everything that had the least moisture in it was frozen solid in a day. Our meals consisted of pork and beans cooked in the camp kettle, tea, and, when the hard bread gave out, ‘flap-jacks.’ We would mix up a batter of flour and water, and make the flap-jacks as large as the frying-pan to save time, using the bacon for grease, and when that was gone seal oil took its place.”

Bertholf quickly learned that nothing was more important than caring for the dogs. “After the meal was finished,” he would relate, “we would proceed to the very trying task of feeding the dogs. Each man took in his arms one dried fish for each dog, and then tried to get his team all together and away from the others. The poor hungry little fellows would jump up after the fish, and in their eagerness to obtain a mouthful it was a difficult matter to keep from being knocked down and bitten. But finally a fish would be thrown to each one, and then you would have to stand by with a club to drive off any dog that gulped his fish down and then tried to steal from the others. As soon as all the fish intended to be used had been given out and devoured, and the dogs saw no more was coming, they would lie down quietly and go to sleep, and we would then go to our tent [and] close the flap to keep out as much cold air as possible.”

On January 20, having spent four days traveling through snowstorms so violent that Bertholf and his party often could see no farther than twenty yards ahead, they reached Koyuk, where supposedly another sled and team of dogs were waiting for them. But they were not there. To make matters much worse, Bertholf’s native companion announced that he was homesick and could go no farther.


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