“Lyttelton has the strongest Antarctic links
of any where in New Zealand yet we don’t celebrate them” said Sue Stubenvoll.
initiated a Lyttelton community based project, under the auspices of the New
Zealand Antarctic Society’s Canterbury branch, to change all of that. To
celebrate our Antarctic heritage the project team proposes to erect a bronze replica
of a life size [or slightly larger] Antarctic sled dog in Lyttelton. This is wonderful news for those of us who worked with the Scott Base huskies.
Mike and Kulak, Scott Base huskies. During the summer of
1969-70, they were the two best dogs in the team Photo: Bob McKerrow
A recent visit by Sue Stubenvoll to Tasmania showed her how much more Tasmanians celebrate their
Antarctic links than we do. It inspired her to initiate a project at home
through the New Zealand Antarctic Society. “Hobart has statues, fountains, and
sculptures on the walls of buildings,
festivals, a trail and wonderful second-hand book
shops. They have named a precinct on the dockside after Mawson, which has an
ice-skating rink and a new replica of Mawson’s hut. They’re enthusiastic
Antarcticans “, she said.
Lyttelton as the jewel in NZ’s Antarctic crown with historic and continuing
links to Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and our World Heritage sub-Antarctic
the Lyttelton Historical Museum includes an extensive Antarctic and maritime collection.
The Steam Tug Lyttelton escorted Shackleton’s Nimrod to the Heads in 1907, the Lyttelton
Dry Dock was used by Discovery, Morning and Terra Nova for repairs, Quail
Island housed heroic era expeditions’ sled dogs and ponies and the Timeball
station improved marine navigational
Chris Knott leaving the dog lines at Scott Base, for a training trip 1969. : Bob McKerrow
Lytteltonians served under Scott, Shackleton, Hillary and on major expeditions to this day, while the Port of
Lyttelton continues to service vessels working in Antarctic waters. “Scott
recorded the wholehearted support he received
from Lyttelton, which gave free wharfage and support to his expedition, a
tradition of service still held today,” she said.
Antarctic Society Canterbury branch hopes the project will bring the port’s Antarctic
roles to life for visitors and residents.
is something kids can sit on and rub its nose yellow. Visitors can have their photo
taken sitting on it with Quail
Island behind” Sue said. Quail Island is significant because that is where the
statue’s heroic era predecessors were trained. One dog, DEEK, returned to New
Zealand after the International
Geophysical Year was conserved and has appeared in Lyttelton and Canterbury
seem to epitomize the courage, tenacity and comradeship of all those who work
in the Antarctic, values shared by Lytteltonians and visiting seafarers.
fullfill this vision and direct the project a small team of local volunteers
has been formed under the auspices of the New Zealand Antarctic Society. Its
chair is Councillor Andrew Turner. Committee members are Dr Ursula Rack,
Shankland, Interim Head of school Liza Rossie
Information Centre Chair and Project Lyttelton representative Wendy Everingham.
Having worked with the huskies in Antarctica and was the one who erecived the last of the Scott Base huskies in Lyttelton in 1987, Iwould like to share this article I wrote on the Scott Base huskies.
The last Antarctic Huskies - from Scott Base
and Kulak, Scott Base huskies. During the summer of 1969-70, they were
the two best dogs on my team. Chris Knott used Rangi as his lead dog.
Photo: Bob McKerrow
Polar medals, knighthoods, and a
host of accolades have been bestowed on those who have carved their
names in Antarctic ice, but of the hundreds of faithful huskies who
pulled their hearts out opening up the New Zealand sector of Antarctica,
what is their memorial?
A lone husky in Central Park New York,
honours one husky, Balto, who in 1925 saved a community in Alaska from
Diphtheria. Huskies at Scott base saved one New Zealander, George Marsh
from dying of Diphtheria, but no bugles or no drums for them !
heated newspapers debates in January 1986 when the DSIR’s Antarctic
Division announced they were pulling the huskies out of Antarctica, not a
lot has been written about them since. In this article I attempt to
give the full history of huskies that lived at Scott Base and played
such in vital role in surveying and exploring the New Zealand sector of
Two of the best: Rangi (left) and Oscar (right) 1969 Scott Base. Photo: Bob McKerrow
start of New Zealand’s involvement in acquiring dogs for pulling
sledges in Antarctica starts in 1955 when mountain guide at Franz Josef,
Harry Ayres was selected by Sir Edmund Hillary for the first New
Zealand Antarctic Expedition. Harry was attached initially to the
Australian Antarctic Expedition engaged in the relief of Mawson Station
where the Australians had promised 26 huskies, bred at Mawson.
money for the expedition and for the dogs in particular, was difficult.
The government gave a grant of 50,000 pounds but the rest of the money
was raised by the strenuous efforts of innumerable district committees
and private individuals. The greatest per capita enthusiasm was shown by
children. The boys of Wellington College contributed $300, enough to
pay for a sledge and a dog. Some youngsters raised money by rearing and
selling guinea pigs and tadpoles! With the expedition running on a shoe
string budget, Harry left Sydney aboard the Ice-breaker Kista Dan. He
sailed on to Melbourne, passed by Heard Island with its amazing sheer
pinnacle of rock, ‘Big Ben’. Before reaching Antarctica, the Soviets who
were establishing their first Antarctic base made contact with the
ship. At Mawson, Harry had his first opportunity to learn something
about huskies. These dogs were the descendants of huskies of
Greenland-Labrador cross (Malamutes) that were presented to the
Australians by the ill-fated ship, the Commandant Charcot, which failed
to reach the Antarctic in 1949 as part of the French Government’s
attempt to establish a base in Antarctica. The dogs were off -loaded in
Harry Ayres and Murray Douglas, two top dog handlers
Ayres returned with 26 huskies via Kerguelen Island, a French Antarctic
Base, arriving in Melbourne in March 1956. The final stage to New
Zealand was abroad a Bristol Freighter which flew to Brisbane, Norfolk
Island, Auckland and finally Christchurch. By now the dogs were tired
and upset by the noise and heat. The final stage of the journey was by
army truck to Mount Cook where they were tethered in a wire enclosure
beyond the Hooker Bridge from March to June 1956. Today, the place is
named Husky Flat. In June, Harry Ayres was joined my Murray Douglas and
two men Hillary selected from the UK: Dr George Marsh and Lt. Commander
were both experienced dog handlers having spent seven years in the
Polar Regions. The dogs were kept fit, most days they pulled an old car
without an engine up to Ball Hutt and back, much to the amazement of
bewildered tourists. Some trips over the hooker flats were attempted but
inevitably the dogs would become entangled in the Matagouri bushes. It
was with some relief for both dogs and handlers when they moved up the
Tasman Glacier to Malte Brun Hutt in June 1956. The conditions were so
much better with the dogs spanned out in the snow around the hut.
the first 26 huskies, which were soon to become 34 with the arrival of
puppies, were enjoying the snow of the Tasman Glacier, 12 more huskies
were being loaded into the HMNZS Endeavour on the 18th of August 1956 at
Butler’s Wharf on the South Bank of Thames just below the Tower Bridge.
The huskies were housed in kennels on the ship foredeck and, except for
a spell of rough water in the Bay of Biscay when they were all sick,
they withstood the long journey to New Zealand well, via Kingston,
Jamaica, Panama Canal and Tahiti.
In Tahiti the crew and the dogs
received traditional Tahitian hospitality with each of the dogs being
garlanded with flowers. After eight weeks out from London the dogs
landed in Auckland where they were quarantined in Auckland Zoo until
they went south.
Fifteen husky pups, bred at the Auckland Zoo,
were about nine months old when they arrived at Mt. Cook for the further
training. One reliable source believes these pups were bred from
descendants of the dogs used by Admiral Richard Byrd for his 1928-30
Expedition to Antarctica.
On 21 December 1956 when the HMNZS
Endeavour, left Bluff she carried with her most of the men and dogs
ready to set up New Zealand’s first base in Antarctica, Twenty-four of
the remaining dogs, mostly the untrained dogs from Greenland and some of
the Auckland Zoo pups, were taken to Scott base aboard the American
cargo ship the SS. Private John R. Towie a WW2 Victory Class cargo ship.
January 5 1957, the majority of the 61 huskies set their paws on
Antarctic ice. After some local training trips with the dog teams a
longer trip commenced. On 19 January 1957 three teams left Scott Base to
cross the McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves to the Skelton Glacier, but five
days later they were back. George Marsh got terribly sick a few days
out and with poor radio communications, Brooke and Peter Mulgrew made a
mercy dash back to get medical help. Sensing the urgency, the dogs
covered the 50 km back to Scott base in just over seven hours, a speed
of just over 7km an hour. Marsh was airlifted out the next day suffering
Dr George Marsh
was not the first time huskies have been involved in life-saving action
against diphtheria. A monument of the most famous Greenland Husky of
all, Ba lto, in Central Park New York, keeps the courageous image of
this breed alive. Photoof Balto below.
1925, the gold rush town of Nome in Alaska, was threatened by a
diphtheria epidemic in the middle of a dark winter, and the only way to
save the lives of over 2,000 inhabitants, was to get a twenty pound
packet of diphtheria anti- toxin over a trail that usually took 25 days.
The word was flashed out by telegraph from Nenana, Alaska to diphtheria
stricken Nome, over 674 miles of the roughest, most desolate country in
the world. The route was known as the Iditarod mail trail, now a famous
dog sled race.
The dog drivers were predominantly Innuit,
Athabascan Indians and Scandinavians. The little Norwegian Sepal with
his lead dog Togo, made 84 miles in one day. Gunnar Kasson ran the last
55 miles to Nome, with 13 dogs. He left in total darkness and in an 80
mph wind driven snow storm. The lead dog Balto an Inuit Siberian, put
his nose down and sniffed and felt his way along the hidden trail. In
the tradition of the great Innuit huskies, Balto, ears flattened against
his head, to keep out the driving snow, nose working to pick up the
trail, guided his team, driver and serum to Nome. When they reached
their destination at 5.30 am on February 2nd, the half frozen Kasson
collapsed by his battered dog team and began pulling ice from Balto’s
frozen feet. “Balto”, he was heard to mumble…..” Damn fine dog.”
seal is butchered by Richard Brooke for some hungry dogs, (plus some
seal liver for the dog handlers, see on the right!) Spring Journey, at
the Stranded Moraines, Sept. 1957. Photo. Bernie Gunn.
the summer of 1957, the New Zealand expedition huskies went on many
trips with their drivers moulding and training them into solid teams..
However, training the dogs had its moments. Bob Millar describes one of
those periods when the dogs would do nothing right. “ Dog trouble was
with us yesterday and it looks like it will be another problem day. “ We
were so exasperated that we turned a bitch loose and the dogs, like a
pack of rugby forwards, surged forward, never noticing the 1000 pound
load behind them.”
Midwinter's Eve,1957 Bob Miller deputy leader says a few words. Bob, or
Sir J Holmes as he later became, was an artilleryman in the desert in
the war. On left is Dr Trevor Hatherton, geophysist and IGY chief. On
right is Dr Ron Balham, our resident biologist. He also was co-opted for
a time into driving tractors to the Pole.
feat of exploration in Antarctica by New Zealanders using dog teams was
the Northern Party of The Trans Antarctic Expeditions (1955-58) which
left Scott Base on the 4th of October 1957, comprising, Brooke, Gunn,
Warren and Douglas.
The Northern Party at Corner Peak, Feb. 1958. Photo: Bernie Gunn
returned to Scott base on February 6th 1958 having travelled over 1000
miles by dog sledge and had obtained the information required for the
preliminary geological and topological mapping of 20,000 square miles of
rugged mountain country. In terms of knowledge gained, geological,
exploratory and topographical, this journey might well be regarded as
the most rewarding in Antarctic history. A tribute to the two teams of
huskies that pulled all the equipment, food and supplies for 127 days.
A photo taken by Bernie Gunn when he used dogs on an expedition to climb Mount Huggins.
late 1959 the dog population at Scott Base had dwindled to 26 dogs. The
New Zealanders, realising the usefulness of the dogs for field work,
decided to search for more dogs. In May 1960, Wally Herbert, Dr. Hugh
Simpson and Myrtle Simpson (a New Zealander) were driving through Arctic
Norway and in an old Austin van, planning to explore Spitzenbergen.
Wally and Hugh had spent many years in Antarctica together. Late in May
they arrived in Tromso, the northern-most village in Norway, renowned as
a starting point for Arctic expeditions, having seen Nansen, Amundsen,
Sverdrup and many others depart here by ship for the unknown. In this
remote Arctic village, Wally Herbert received a telegramme from the New
Zealand Government asking him to go to Greenland and buy twelve dogs for
the NZ Antarctic Expedition, and transport them via the USA, Hawaii,
Fiji and Christchurch to Scott Base where he was invited to join the
expedition for two summers and one winter.
An early Antarctic Husky listening to a grammaphone. Photo taken by Herbert Ponting on Scott's Terra Nova Expedition.
carried on with his expedition on Spitzenberge (now Svalbard) for a few
weeks, before he had to kayak along the coast to Longyaerbyen to catch a
boat back to Norway. Three weeks later he arrived in Sondre Stromfjord,
Greenland. He made his way to Jacobshavn which had a dog population of
over 3000: two dogs to every human being. This village had supplied dogs
to many polar expeditions and there was always great excitement when
‘Kabloona’s’ (whitemen) came to buy dogs. Wally recalls his days in
Jacobshavn, “the villagers were delightful old rogues to deal with when
it came to buying dogs, and some of my happiest recollections of
Greenland are the wranglings between dog owners and myself through
interpreters. I often received the most incongruous answers that were
presumably lost in the translation, but by drawing portraits of dog
owners and priming them just before the final purchase with a crate of
beer, I eventually got the dogs I wanted.”
The Greenland huskies
were flown south aboard a Globemaster of the US Military Air Transport
Service from California, arriving at Scott Base at the end of October
The 1963-64 summers saw the end of an era in Antarctica
with the introduction of ‘Tin Dogs’, motor toboggans, winding up a
decade of dramatic journeys by dog sledge. It was fitting that Bob (Sir
Holmes) Miller, Ed Hillary’s deputy on the TAE, led the last major New
Zealand dog sledge expedition. In 101 days, this expedition collection
over 500 geological specimens from 145 localities, occupied over 50
stations. In all they sledged 1600 miles and surveyed 49,000 square
miles of previously unmapped country.
From 1964 onwards, most New
Zealand field parties moved about by motor toboggan. The dog teams
continued to be used for short scientific and field trips of a
When I arrived at Scott Base in October 1969 I did numerous trips with Chris Knott the dog handler.
Chris Knott, dog handler Scott Base 1969-70, hitching up a team to the sledge at Scott Base, Photo: Bob McKerrow
we would set off with a team each and race over the ice shelf towards
Mt. Lister and Huggins, or visit the Shackleton and Scott Huts at Cape
Royds and Cape Evans. In a strange way, although being a science
technician, I became the second dog handler and helped Chris to train,
to feed them, and to assist him with the unpleasant tasks of killing
aging seals to feed them over the winter. My lead dog was Rangi and he
was an enormously strong dog and I spent many sunny evenings down at the
dog lines talking to the dogs one by one, but Rangi always got special
Chris Knott leaving the dog lines at Scott Base, for a training trip 1969. : Bob McKerrow
1970 onwards, efforts were made to acquire dogs from other Antarctic
bases to minimise in-breeding. In 1975 a bitch and a dog came in by Twin
Otter from the British Base Rothera. They evidently mated in the air
over the South Pole and their progeny were successfully integrated into
the Scott Base teams. In 1979 pairs of huskies were exchanged between
Mawson Station and Scott Base.
In January 1986 when the DSIR’s
Antarctic Division announced they were pulling the huskies out of
Antarctica, Christchurch newspapers debated the issue at length. While
this debate was raging, I was slugging it out on the Arctic Ocean with
49 huskies, as a member of Will Steger’s International North Pole
Expedition. During the training period and on the expedition, Will often
quizzed me on Antarctica and of his dream to cross the continent with
Will Steger driving a team of dogs on his 1986 North Pole Expedition
I returned to New Zealand I saw an opportunity for the Scott Base dogs
to be kept together, and to go to a good home with Will Steger, the
veteran Arctic explorer, at his homestead near Ely Minnesota where he
runs a dog sledding outdoor centre. I began negotiations on behalf of
Will Steger with Bob Thomson, Director of NZ Antarctic Division. That
was in the days before New Zealand’s Antarctic bureaucracy had reached
its politically correct zenith, and the deal was finally sealed with a
handshake and a few beers with Bob Thomson. The Scott Base Huskies’ had
their last winter in Antarctica in 1986.
The author, Bob McKerrow on a training trip with Will Steger on Baffin Island in 1986.Photo: Will Steger
The last outing by the Scott Base dog team was on 17 January 1987.
dogs on the team were: Jens, Bjorn, Footrots, Odin, Kiri, Nimrod,
Tania, Stareek, Julick, Monty, Herbie, Casper. Tama and Rehua
name has a history. Monty after Colin Monteath a mountaineer and
Antarctic traveller, Odin after Mt. Odin overlooking Vanda station and
named by Colin Bull, Nimrod after Shackleton’s ship. Arnold Heine,
veteran of countless trips in Antarctica, calculates there have been
between 500 and 600 named dogs at Scott Base in the 30 years they have
been in the NZ sector of Antarctica.
Arnold Heine on Mt. Marmsworth in 1957. Photo: Bernie Gunn
Gillespie, the last dog handler sent me an envelope with the names of
all the dogs, a special post mark, and Ross Dependency stamps, and the
Carried on the last dog sledge journey made in Antarctica by the Scott Base Dogs – 17 January 1987.
February 4 1987 at midday, the US ship the Greenwave, entered Lyttelton
Harbour delivering the last 14 Scott Base huskies. Accompanying them,
was Grant Gillespie, the last dog handler. Watching on the wharf were
many people who had close association with the huskies such as Murray
Douglas, who, with moist eyes, spoke to me about his days training the
first Scott Base Huskies at Mount Cook and then accompanying them to
Scott Base in 1956-57, veterinarian David Marshall who had worked with the
health of the dogs for over 12 years. Pete Cleary, dog handler at
British Antarctic bases for two years, and dog handler at Scott Base in
1978-79, Richard Balm dog handler in 1985-86, Eric Saxby who had done so
much in organising the return of the dogs, and Bob Thomson, Director of
Antarctic Division, were there. One 81 year old woman I spoke to said
she saw the dogs off in 1956 and was pleased to welcome their off spring
was the type of terrain the Antarctic huskies excelled in, rugged, at
altitude and remote. Taken near the Beardsmore Glacier.Photo: Bob
As I boarded the ship to help take the dogs
off, I was impressed with their condition. They were excited and looking
at me with anticipation. I spent a lot of time at Will Steger’s
homestead on a Lake near Ely, Minnesota in preparation for the 1986
North Pole expedition, and knew they would have a great home there, and a
possibility of returning to Antarctica with Will.
checked each dog as we put them in cages and loaded them onto a truck.
Murray Douglas took great interest and remarked “: They looked similar
to the ones he took down.” My two daughters, Tania and Kira helped
Grant, Eric and I load the dogs on the truck. Eric drove the truck as I
sat on the deck with 14 howling dogs in cages; a curious traffic officer
passed on a motor bike and stood up on his footrests and gazed at the
dogs, and decided that asking questions would not help anyone.
Man and dog in Antarctica. Photo: Bob McKerrow
got the dogs to the airport and we lugged their cages into a
refrigerated chamber. The dogs were now mine. Will Steger said he would
pay for the air freight to the US, but the money had not arrived. It was
5 pm. I knew if I presented my American Express Card, the woman on the
counter would phone Amex HQ in Auckland, and from previous experience, I
would be declined. I knew from previous experienced the office closed
at 5.30 pm in Auckland, so I dithered around pretending to be examining
the dog’s condition. At about 5.45 pm I presented my Amex card and the
women said, “ I think the office for verification is closed. Do you have
a good credit rating ?” Deliberately lying through my teeth, I said “I
am wealthy, no problem “ and she gave me a bill for NZ$ 25,000. Will’s
money came into my account a few days later.
Grant Gillespie had
agreed to fly with the dogs via Nadi, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Denver,
finally arriving in Aspen Colorado on 25 February 1987. Sadly, on
arrival it was discovered that one dog had died, it was Stareek, a seven
and a half year male. Stareek was the name of one of Scott’s dogs and
in Russian means “ The old man.” The old man had led his team all the
way to the US, and an autopsy revealed he had died of stress. All the
other dogs arrived in perfect condition.
Keizo Funatsu describes
meeting the dogs at Snowmass Colorado for the first time. “ I worked for
Krabloonik Kennel there and Grant brought them over before they went to
Minnesota. They had never seen trees and were fascinated by them, and
slowly learned to take a pee on trees! “
Grant settled the dogs in at Will Steger’s homestead in Ely Minnesota before returning to New Zealand some months later.
years later, five of the 13 Scott Base dogs were selected for an
arduous crossing of Antarctica with Will Steger’s International
In March 1990, Will Steger completed
what no man had ever before attempted: the crossing of Antarctica on
foot using dogs to pull the sledges. Steger and his International
Trans-Antarctica Team performed an extraordinary feat of endurance
covering 3741 miles.
In his book Crossing Antarctica, Will Steger describes the performance of the former Scott Base Dogs:
“Kenzo’s team is the unruliest of the three, comprised of the five Antarctic dogs and seven from the Homestead…”
five Antarctic dogs were: Bjorn the leader, Odin, Monty, Herbie and
Casper. Of the thirty six dogs that set out on the Trans Antarctic
journey, only twelve completed the full 3,741 miles. Three of them were
from Scott Base, Bjorn, Monty and Herbie. Their Antarctic births at New
Zealand’s Scott Base, strong genes and acclimatisation were a key
factor. Monty was taken by Kenzo back to Japan, along with another dog,
Kinta, to Osaka, where Kenzo used them as the foundation for a new dog
team that he used at an outdoor centre he set up.
later fear of the impact of dogs on wildlife led to a new clause in the
Antarctic treaty: 'Dogs shall not be introduced onto land or ice shelves
and dogs currently in those areas shall be removed by April 1994.' The
last dogs were removed from Antarctica on 22 February 1994, 96 years
after huskies were first used for transport in Antarctica during the
Southern Cross expedition under the Norwegian, Carsten Borchgrevink, in
Fittingly, to close the story, I quote from the letter I received from Kenzo Funatsu on 1 September 2009
am Keizo Funatsu. I received an email from Will Steger about you. I had
the New Zealand Antarctica dogs during the Trans-Antarctic expedition
20 years ago. I have been living in Alaska for 15 years. I miss all
Antarctic dogs. Their power was incredible compare to Alaskan huskies
Monty and Herbie were brothers, both 4 years old and
strong dogs. Bjorn was one of the leaders and the oldest dog in the
Antarctica team. I think he was 6 years old. Those three Antarctic dogs
completed the journey. Casper and Odin flew back when the airplane came
to us on our way the South Pole. Odin got frost bite and I forgot why
Casper flew out.
Bjorn was 8 years old when he completed the Antarctic trip. He was a good leader.
Monty and Herbie were strong fighters but they were steady workers and cute dogs.
All male Antarctica dogs were fighters among them but it was fun to work with.
went to Japan to breed with some other dogs in Hokkaido, the
northern-most island in Japan. Monty bred with the offspring of the dogs
which Naomi Uemura brought back from his trip in the Arctic. Naomi was a
famous Japanese explorer who died on the Mt. Denali right after his
successful first solo winter ascent.
Kinta who came from the
Eskimo village in Canada completed the journey and went to Japan. Kinta
went to Hokkaido and worked for the outdoor school there.
the journey is completed. The off spring of the New Zealand’s Scott Base
dogs returned to their rightful place, the northern parts of the world
after 31 years of useful work in Antarctica. For posterity, I list the
names of the last Scott Base dogs and their details:
David Harrowfield, Colin Monteath, Arnold Heine, Grant Gillespie, Will
Steger, Keizo Funatsu and Gary Lewis for assistance with his article
THE LAST DOGS.
Name Date of birth Sire
Odin m 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Tania f 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Casper m 20-02-85 Jen and Reheat
Herb m 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Monty m 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Kiri f 06-01-84 Footrots and Manea
Bjorn m 15-12-82 Tama and Helga
Footrots m 09-09-81 Julick and Abbe
Tama m 02-06-80 Muff and Cherry
Stereek m 09-12-79 Muff and Kiritea
Rehua f 14-06-79 Dick and Karen
Nimrod m 14-06-79 Dick and Karen
Julick m 14-06-09 Dick and Karen
Jens m 28-7-78 Huka and Kuia