The sleds used by the CAE came from many different sources. Two sledges, four
sledge indicators and two freight toboggans were ordered in advance and arrived
in Victoria in time to go north on the Karluk. A number of sleds were
ordered from Nome and loaded onto the three ships of the Expedition. Ten "freighting
sleds" were purchased from St. Joseph's Church, Nome; seven larger sleds
at $75 each, two at $60 each, and one at $40. It is likely these sleds that appear
in the photograph (below) labelled "Dog sleds of the Stefansson-Anderson Canadian-Arctic
Other sleds were picked up at various stops along the Alaska coast: "Stefansson...
advised me to buy umiak, one canoe sled, two rail sleds and seal pokes from Brower.
Bought one umiak at 100 dollars, 1 ivory-shod canoe-sled, $20.00, 2 railsleds
at $40.00 and six seal-pokes at $2.00 each." (R.M. Anderson Diary, August
19, 1913, Cape Smyth, Alaska)
The sleds ordered by Stefansson were of the type known as a Nome sled. Stefansson
modified them by adding a second layer of wood slats under the cross-pieces of
the sled's "bed bottom", so that they would not drag in deep snow. In
referring to the first ice trip in 1914, Stefansson described another modification
of the sleds which was effective when crossing a lead (a channel of water) on
thin ice: "The first sled crossed safely. It had been built by Captain Bernard
according to a modification of my own of the standard Nome design, with runners
that rested on the ice for seven out of their twelve feet of length, so as to
distribute the weight over a large area. The other sled was of the typical Alaskan
type, where the runners are bent somewhat rocking-chair fashion to make the sled
easier to turn and maneuver, and only two or three feet of the middle part of
the runners rest on level ice" (Stefansson, 1921, p. 297).
In planning for the Expedition, all of the materials needed for repairing and
building sleds was acquired, either from southern suppliers or in Nome, and sent
north on the Expedition ships. The inventory lists for Mary Sachs in
1914, as she was being prepared for the trip to Banks Island, included one hardwood
sled (made by Bernard), one Point Barrow sled, and sled building material, including
20 metres of two-inch shoeing, 10 metres of three-inch shoeing, five pairs of
sleigh runners, six bundles of hickory, two pairs of iron sled runners, and two
sled covers (Canadian Museum of Nature Archives, RMA CAE lists).
The Sled-Boat or
When faced with leads of open water while travelling over sea ice, the Northern
Party converted their sleds into sled-boats or sled-rafts, a method used by Mikkelsen
in 1906, and perhaps introduced by Storkersen, who was part of Mikkelsen's exploration
party. Sleds were stabilized with paddles inserted across the sled bed, then a
tarpulin of canvas or sealskins was stretched around the sled and fastened at
the top to the sled rails.
The movie film shot by George Wilkins in 1916, as he travelled
with the northern party out onto the ice of the Beaufort Sea, also shows the use
of the sled-boat in crossing a lead (Wilkins 1917).
Stefansson's Surviving Sleds
When Stefansson and his three companions, Knight, Noice, and Emiu, arrived back
on Melville Island in July 1917 after their farthest north trip, their two sleds
were in rough shape. "There was nothing here out of which we could build
sledges and one of ours was now so rickety that we were able to haul on it little
but bedding. We usually carried about two hundred pounds of fresh meat with us,
provisions for four or five days, and that with the cooking gear and heavier articles
was now all on one sled" (Stefansson 1921 p. 632). "Our sledges were
now so weakened that they could not carry a heavy load, and some of our scientific
instruments had been broken, while others were in need of repairs which could
only be effected by experts" (Noice 1924).
Crossing the summer ocean ice to Banks Island with these sleds
in late July was a wet process: "the dogs swam and the sleds floated."
Making camp near Knight Harbour, they prepared for the long walk south, overland
to Kellett Base. The two sledges, some tools and other unneeded supplies were left
behind. "We constructed a cache by standing our sledges on end and lashing
them together at the top. There we made a platform in the A thus formed, upon
which we deposited those articles which were too heavy to take with us" (Noice
There the sleds remained for 37 years. In 1954 a helicopter
pilot from the Canadian icebreaker HMCS Labrador retrieved one of the cached sleds,
and brought it on board the ship. The sled and other artifacts from the cache
eventually reached the National Archives Museum (disbanded 1967), and are now
part of the history collection at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. This sled
was loaned to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife where
it is now on display. The second sled was rediscovered in 1972 and flown out on
a Twin Otter aircraft and is now stored as part of the CMC's collection of Arctic
Some of the sleds used by the Northern Party in exploring the Arctic islands in
1916-1917 were refurbished in 1917 to serve again, this time on the Beaufort Sea
ice drift trip led by Storkersen. John Hadley recorded in his diary in October
1917 that they were working on two specific sleds, "the Bernier sled"
and the "Illum sled" at Barter Island. The Illum sled was probably used
by one of the support parties rather than the drift party, as Hadley mentions
sending, in August 1918, "one sled, the best that we have, Illum sled"
to the Police at Herschel Island. "The remainder of the light sleds was broken
up on the ice and left there" (Hadley Diary, 1917-1918).
Going with the Dogs
Dogs in Harness
Most parties of the CAE, when travelling with dogs, used the Nome basket sled
with the Nome style of harness. Using this harnessing system the dogs were hitched
in pairs to a central towline, with a single leader in front. Each dog was fitted
with a leather collar with double traces attached to a singletree. "We found
that a seven-dog team, with the Nome sled and Nome harness, gave the best and
most economical results. Generally a team will haul 100 pounds to each dog with
a Nome sled, although in our experience it was usual to start out for long trips
with as much as 150 pounds per dog" (Chipman and Cox, 1924).
"Dogs vary from the long legged, spare-framed, short-haired dog of the interior
(adapted and trained for speed, lighter hauls, and soft snow) to the long-haired,
short-legged, broad-chested, heavy-framed animal of the coast, adapted for heavier
and slower hauling where the snow is not soft and living conditions are more severe"
(Chipman and Cox, 1924).
All of the dogs on the Expedition were assigned to various
drivers. Some men came to the Expedition with their own teams. The names of Daniel
Blue's dog team reflected his Scottish roots: Bruce (leader), Donald, Scotty,
Sam Jones, and Telluraq. The health of the dogs was a constant problem.
"Scotty, the third of Blues' dogs, was frozen to the ground
this morning (like Donald and Bruce), and I had to dig him out, then thaw out
the ice on the foot with a primus stove in the cache. One toe seemed to be frozen,
but he is not limping" (Jenness Diary, November 12, 1914).
The Expedition dogs were mostly acquired in Nome with the help
of Scotty Allen, an expert dog driver who had bred Siberian dogs with his Alaskan
dogs. The dogs were purchased from various people, usually at a cost of $30 each:
"Inspected goods, dogs, etc., Mr. Stefansson, through 'Scotty' Allen
has purchased about thirty dogs - some of the best dogs around Nome, at an average
price of $30.00" (R.M.Anderson Diary, 12 July 1913).
Fighting amongst the collection of dogs, most of which had
not worked together as a team, was common:
"Put dogs ashore [from Alaska] and chained them up. Five dogs broke
loose during the night, and four of them 'Bob' 'Kelly', 'Tip' and 'Towser' killed
'Mule' a dingy-colored malamute bought from Harry Barnett of Teller. The guilty
dogs were pretty bloody in the morning" (R.M.Anderson Diary, September 8,
1913, Collinson Point, Alaska).
"One of our Kogmollik dogs was killed today, fighting
on the picket line ashore, where we put them ashore last night" (R.M. Anderson
Diary, July 25, 1916, Cape Bathurst).
More dogs were acquired throughout the Expedition, as many
dogs were lost through disease and other mishaps. In September 1914, Anderson
bought from Angayu at Baillie Islands, "one black and white Victoria Land
dog, male, named 'Prince' for 1 blue undershirt, 1 pr. drawers, 1 pr. stockings,
6 yds. cotton flannel Teagel cloth" (R.M. Anderson Diary. September 17, 1914).
The inventory lists for Mary Sachs as she was being
prepared for the trip to Banks Island in August 1914 include 15 dogs, 5 pups,
18 sets of dog harness, 2 sledges (one hardwood sled made by Bernard and one Point
Barrow sled), and enough material for making two sledges.
"During my absence the Polar Bear has arived
and have been waiting for Mr Stefansan three days the ship is loaded with supplies
... and 50 more dogs have been bougth from various parties making us 90 with what
"Wilkins" has got in the North Star" (Storkersen Diary, August
Walking with the
"For inland travel in the summertime, packing by dogs and men is the only
method. Good dogs will pack about forty pounds" (Chipman and Cox, 1924).
Crossing rivers with dogs could be an adventure. Thomsen River,
Banks Island: "Started at 10:30am, crossed the river and took noon observations.
We carried all the dog packs across on our heads to avoid getting them wet. The
river here was about 60 yds. wide knee deep 20 yrds of the way and shin deep the
balance. The current is quite swift sweeping some of the dogs downstream a way.
The crossing would have been easier had it not been for quick sand which covered
both banks. We sank with our packs down to below the knee at each step until we
got out near the center of the stream" (Noice Diary, 1917).
The End of the Dog
Several dogs were sold to Native employees at the end of the Expedition. Some
of Jenness' dogs were given to Ikpukhuaq as an acknowledgement of his good service
to the CAE. Others were taken out on Alaska in case of another forced wintering.
"Left several dogs here (with Brower and Hopson), also the old umiak, and
the old sleds. We do not need them any more, and we need our decks cleared to
prepare for the open water and heavy weather expected south of here." (R.M.
Anderson Diary, August 8, 1916, Point Barrow, Alaska).
"Today I sent 7 dogs aboard of the Argo to be launched
at Herschell [sic] for the police, five for them and two to sell for the benefit
of the Expedition. That makes 16 dogs that I have sent them, five for them and
11 to sell" (John Hadley Diary, August 5, 1918, Barter Island, Alaska).