The dog is considered man’s best friend. A dog is with its owner both in happiness and in disaster and sometimes risks his or her life to save him or her from danger.
A dog named Bolto is considered a hero in Alaska. That is because the whole village escaped death due to its heroic deeds. Almost a century after this incident, the memory of Bolto has not faded from its inhabitants.
Bolto, a Siberian Husky dog, was born in 1919. With black, brown, and white fur, and a slightly obese body, he was not as active as other species. This was especially so when he was a child and underwent infertility surgery.
Meanwhile, Gunnar Casen, who lives in Nome, decides to buy a group of Siberian Husky dogs to join the snowmobiles. When his dog team comes together, Cassen meets this obese, slow-moving, but intelligent dog, and he quickly realizes his value. This is how he joined the world famous 1925 ‘Survival’ operation.
In 1925, Nome, a small town in Alaska, was hit by a catastrophe. In January of that year, the number of patients seeking treatment for ‘sore throat’ increased. They realized that this tendency was the beginning of a very dangerous condition when it was revealed that many of them were suffering from diphtheria.
During the 1920s diphtheria became a very serious and deadly disease. By 1921, the disease was responsible for more than 15,000 deaths in the United States.
At that time there was a great tendency for gonorrhea to spread like an epidemic. Also, when this happened, it had to be treated immediately. At that time, only urban centers had proper treatment centers for this purpose. For these reasons, a typhoid epidemic in rural, isolated villages is usually fatal. Alaska was a relatively uninhabited state at the time, and someone in Nome had to come to Anchorage to seek treatment for diphtheria. The anchorage was more than 500 miles away. By January, heavy snowfall in Alaska had blocked all roads from Nome to Anchorage, turning Nome into a high-risk area in an epidemic.
Shortly afterward, several plague patients were identified in Nome and spread like wildfire throughout the city. No one there was able to take each other to the anchorage so slowly that they became ill and weak. The doctors there tried their best to control the condition, but they found it difficult to do so. All of the limited gallstones they had were also out of date. Last but not least, they sought medical help from Anchorage.
Upon receiving the message from the city of Nome asking for help from the city of Anchorage, the authorities rushed to determine the time it would take. At the time, the only road from Anchorage to Nome on foot was 674 miles long, and it was estimated that it would take about a month to reach it on foot. Air and sea routes were also blocked due to heavy snowfall. Only then did they realize the seriousness of the matter. They found that if it took a month to treat, many would inevitably die.
There was one quicker way to get to Nome than that. That is the use of snowmobiles tied to dogs. It was determined that it could be reached in a few days. But it was questionable how far the dogs could go, enduring the harsh cold weather around them. Where there was no other practical method, the authorities decided to try that method.
On the way from Anchorage to Nome, you have to pass a difficult mountainous area in addition to the cold. Thus it was planned to travel to Nome in several groups. Accordingly, the journey was planned to be completed in several stages. From Anchorage, Nome was informed that he was sending aid and that he would come in dog carts as far as he could to get it. The response was overwhelming, and on 27 January 1925, the decisive operation began.
Early on the morning of 27 January 1925, a large parcel of medicine for gallstones was shipped from Anchorage to Nome. An experienced cart driver named ‘Wild Bill’ Shannon stayed with his dog snowmobile. He loaded the medicine package into his cart and set off with his dogs and team. They traveled quite a distance through the bitter cold of minus 50 degrees, and at one point they handed over the medicine to the second group. By then, four of Shannon’s dogs had lost their lives due to extreme cold and exhaustion. Several groups later handed over the package to Leonard Sepala, a Norwegian dog cart driver from Nome.
His dog team consisted of Husky dogs imported from Siberia, led by a 12-year-old dog named Togo. Leonard had the hardest part of the journey. After successfully climbing 5,000 feet and 170 miles in the bitter cold, they successfully deliver the parcel to Charlie Olson. Olson also travels successfully with his team and it finally gets to Gunnar Carson.
Bolto was the leader of Gunnar Carson’s dog team. Carson Bolto, known for his ingenuity, was chosen to lead, though the slow-moving creature would not have been appointed as the leader. The last 55 miles of the journey had been handed over to them. At first glance, it seemed not so difficult, but they had to walk through a snowy area. Due to one mistake made here, the successful operation could be completely reversed.
During the voyage, a severe snowstorm struck just as expected. The way disappeared before Carson. At this point, Bolto, not caring for his own life, used his limbs to steer the cart on the right track without making a single mistake. Eventually, he successfully led his team to Nome. On February 2, Carson and his team reached Nome, and treatment began immediately.
The operation to transport the treatment to Nome took place within 6 days. 20 dog carts and 150 dogs participated in this exercise. However, Bolto is unique in that he led his team correctly at a crucial moment at the last minute and saved many lives.
Soon Bolto became a hero in Nome. Later, a statue of him was erected in Manhattan. The animal died in 1933 at the age of 14, and its remains are still in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Recently, his centenary was also celebrated.