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The true Balto

A legend out of the common

For several decades, the visitors of Central Park, one of the largest parks in New York , can admire a bronze statue, the only one in the city to the effigy of a dog. It represents Balto, this husky which made the pride of the American nation in the middle of the Twenties...



Balto : the true story

The epidemic broke out in nome (a little town with only 1500 inhabitants) on Jan. 19th 1925, and the local hospital had run out of antitoxin (the last supply had arrived in 1918). The first child who got ill was a five years old Inuit boy, at Holy Cross; doctor Curts Welch (nome's only doctor) said it was only tonsillitis, since none of his relatives had similar symptoms. The child died the morning after, and since then many others got ill. The mother of the Inuit boy didn't let the doctor exaxmine the corpse for an autopsy, which made it a lot harder to find out what was happening.


The first official case of diphteria was recorded on Jan 20th 1925 on a boy called Bill Barnett. The day after a 7 years old girl got ill (Bessie Stanley) who died the next day, and so on. At this point, after a concil, Nome was quarantined and a million doses of vaccine were ordered. The closest supply (300,000 units in total) was located in Anchorage, the capital of Alaska, 1,500 miles away from Nome. Planes couldn't take off due to the snow storm and the dock was blocked by the ice, so all the could do was to ship the cargo to Nenana, 674 miles away from Nome.

The real Balto (central park)

Unlike the cartoon says, it wasn't one team only who brough the vaccine from Nenana to Nome, but a series of 19 different teams. The first one was led by Bill "Wild" Shannon who arrived to Tolovana for a total of 52 miles, where Edgar Kalland with a fresh squad took the vaccine and brouth it to the next man, Manley, who took it for 31 miles. The others were: Green (28 miles to Lake Fish), Johnny Folger (26 miles), Sam Joseph (34 miles) Titus Nikotai (24 miles), Dave Corning (30 miles), Hewnry Pitka (30 miles), McCarty (28 miles), Edgar Nollnerr (24 miles), George Noller (30 miles, he was Edgar's brother), Tommy Patsy (36 miles), the native Koyokuk (40 miles), Victor Anagik (34 miles), Myles Gonagnan (40 miles). After this it wsa Leonard Seppala's turn, the owner of Balto and best musher of Alaska with his lead dog Togo, the fastest dog in the whole state. He led his team for 91 miles across the dangerous Norton valley, where the ice was very thin. Anyways, the next mushers were Charlie Olson (25 miles) and finally Gunnar Kaasen, who entered nome after 53 miles with another Seppala's dog: Balto, on Feb 2nd 1925.



Actually there was a 20th team after Kaasen, who should have brought the medicine to Nome, but Gunnar said that they were asleeep when he arrived and decided to go on by himself. Other sources claim that it's not true and Gunnar wanted to take all the credit, but we will never know. The other dogs in Balto's team were: Fox, Ske, Billie, Tillie, Old Moctoc and Alaskan Slim. The total distance of 674 miles was covered in only 127 hours and a half (around 5 days) with a temperature of 40 degree below zero. A normal team usually took around 25 days to cover the same distance.


Balto journey map

That's right! Only because he was the dog who entered Nome, Balto took all the credit. They made 30 minutes long movie called Balto's Race to Nome (where Balto's role was greatly enhanced) to celebrate the new hero, and they took a tour around the United States that lasted over 2 years (that's when, in 1927, Balto's statue was build by Frederick George Roth In Central Park, New York). But Seppala didn't give in: he knew that it was him and his dog Togo who did the hardest job, and thanks to his friend Ronal Amundsen (a famous explorer) he became famous too. Kaason went back to Alaska, but first he sold all his dogs including Balto, for an unknown reason, to Sam Houston.


Balto was now in a small museum of oddities in Cleveland, probably starting from 1927. For several months they starved in a dark room, neglected and even abused, until they were noticed by George Kimble. After speaking with Houston he arranged to buy them for $2,000 USD; but he didn't have the money, and he only had two weeks to raise them. He managed to do it thanks to donations, and he bought the dogs. Balto lived until the age of 11, and died on March 14th 1933 in the Cleveland Brookside Zoo.


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Last comments

March 20, 2015
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
I wonder if it would work to allow individual members to allow/not allow guest comments on their articles, profiles, etc. at their own choosing?

March 18, 2015
Is not currently on the site
(Not related to the comments)
There is a mistake on this article,Seppala's name is being writen wrong. His name is Leonhard, not Leonard.
And some of the images on this page are missing.

March 18, 2015
Site Builder (Content), Site Builder (Gr... Usa Female Is not currently on the site
Yup, you've got it right. :icon299:

March 18, 2015
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
By "guest comments," I assume you mean comments from non-members? Yeah, we could stand a few less of those.

March 17, 2015
Site Builder (Content), Site Builder (Co... Poland Female Is not currently on the site
Big Bad Mod
They were disabled for a long time, but he decided to allow them back. It only brings more spam than good contribution.

March 17, 2015
Site Builder (Content), Site Builder (Gr... Usa Female Is not currently on the site
None of the dogs in Balto were real. Not even Rosie was real.

This section seems to receive an awful lot of spam lately. I wish Steet would just disable guest comments.

March 17, 2015
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
O' Cap'n My Cap'n!
The real Balto was definitely not a wolfdog. Nor did he magically change into a wolfdog after leading a team of dogs. He was born a Siberian Husky, and remained a Siberian Husky. :icon297:

February 07, 2015
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
O' Cap'n My Cap'n!
The information regarding the "starving" in Houston's museum is, in fact, incorrect anyway, and an egregious historical error. They did suffer from a mild form of neglect, and were treated with a great deal of indifference by Houston and his minimal staff. But that museum was seeing its final days anyway, and had very few visitors. If anything, the dogs were monumentally bored, given very little exercise and almost no play time at all, and cooped up in a hot room with little natural light.

Neglect. Not starvation, and there is no concrete evidence I have ever seen that they were abused. While Houston was a shady character, he was not a criminal.

February 06, 2015
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
God of Blancblack Castle
it was sarcasm. let me live

February 06, 2015
Site Builder (Content), Site Builder (Gr... Usa Female Is not currently on the site
The serum run was no walk in the park, Aboa. Kids died, dogs died, Kaasen was accused of wanting to bring glory to himself, etc. This may be a "kid friendly" site, but mentioning the abuse Balto and his six remaining team mates went though doesn't go against the site rules.

February 06, 2015
usa Female Is not currently on the site


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