Tag Archives: Polar Huskies

Born to Run

The first team of Polar Huskies pull Mille Porsild, Aaron Doering and the first sled on to the ice sheet, the first few steps of a 1000-mile journey to Summit Station. Photo: Robin Davies

The GoNorth! Polar Huskies, Mille Porsild and Aaron Doering run for the ice margin, the first few steps in a 1000-mile journey to Summit Station. Photo: Robin Davies

Now that they’re on the trail to Summit Station, the GoNorth! team is posting daily audio updates at their Web site–stop in to find out how the day has gone. Learn all about Greenland, “climate chaos,” and the seven principals of adventure learning. Read the answers to 10 great questions submitted each week by adventure learners. Visit the scrapbook to “see” through the eyes of the GoNorth! team, head out to the dog yard to meet the Polar Huskies–well, just get on there and explore. More active participants can still register to participate in the adventure learning modules (K-12 students all over the world participate in these).

Go Dogs, Go!

GoNorth! heads out of Thule 

Aaron Doering, GoNorth! PI, prepares to drive the dogs (and team mate Andrea Verdegan) to the transition. All photos: Robin Davies

Paws up and a howl to the GoNorth! team, which left Thule Air Base on Sunday, and should get out on the ice today.  These pictures were taken Sunday as the dogs, the sleds, and the GoNorth! gear were transported to the ice sheet transition some 30 miles from Thule Air Base. The GoNorth! team will follow the safe route flagged by the Strategic Crevasse Avoidance Team, which pushed a ground-penetrating radar over the first 60 miles or so of the route to find a way clear of pitfalls. Once they get past the crevassed area, GoNorth! will head to the deep drilling camp called NEEM, and then on to Summit Station. 

The team arrives at the transition.

If you look closely behind the GoNorth! team, you can see the tracks the team will follow up on to the ice sheet. That's quite a grade!

Aaron, Andrea and Brant Miller (PhD student in Science Education at the University of Minnesota) situated the dogs along a staked line.  There, the Polar Huskies probably curled up and snoozed overnight, waiting for the call to put on the harness and make tracks.  This should happen today.

And, if all goes to plan, the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) team will fire up the tractors and head out soon after the GoNorth! team.

Snow Dogs, Whoa!

GoNorth! Polar Huskies wait out Storm Condition Delta

All photos: Robin Davies

Sheesh. Fortunately, the dogs are bred for cold and snow.

For a second day, Thule Air Base was battened down on Friday under Weather Condition Delta, storm conditions so fierce that all personnel are confined indoors—all two-legged personnel, that is.

The GoNorth! Polar Huskies are curled up on their stake lines on the east side of town, waiting until the weather clears and their humans can emerge and continue preparing for the run up to Summit Station. While the pictures show that they are waiting in miserable conditions, the dogs are bred to handle the cold. On the GoNorth Web site, Polar Husky “Lightening” explains what makes Polar Huskies so incredibly tough and resilient in fierce polar conditions, a two-layered coat among their assets: “Closest to our skin is a thick undercoat of wool, just like what you find on a sheep. This helps insulate and keep us warm. Our outer coat is composed of long, oily “guard hairs” that protect the wool from getting wet.” Curled up in a tight ball, the dogs will be just fine.  As long as they get their kibble and a few friendly words from their humans now and again.

The base commander has twice given special permission for GoNorth! PI Aaron Doering and dog handler Mille Porsild to leave their quarters to visit and feed the dogs. Thule fire department staff have driven the GoNorth! team in the Piston Bully to visit the dogs, along with Robin Davies, a PFS/CPS Greenland Inland Traverse staffer.

Mille and Aaron arrive at the site on the east side of the base where the dogs are. "It was pretty wild but actually not very cold," Robin observed about the trip.

Mille strides toward the Polar Husky superstars.

The huskies were in good shape, Robin wrote. "The dogs looked happy to see them and even happier when the food got dished out."

"For Mille and Aaron it was a relief to get out and check the dogs, but for me it was the best bit of fun I've had all week!"

Late Friday afternoon, Robin wrote to say that the Base Commander had downgraded the storm to Condition Charlie. Though the humans must still remain indoors until the weather improves to Condition Bravo or better, at least we’re blowing in the right direction now.

GoNorth! Polar Huskies Arrive Thule

A crowd watches as the GoNorth! dogs prepare to deplane. Photos: Kim Derry unless otherwise noted

Community members crowded Thule’s airport yesterday to witness the long-awaited arrival of the GoNorth! Huskies, a pack of charismatic hounds with their own Web site and millions of school-age fans (and older ones too).
“All of the dogs, and half of the GoNorth! people, have arrived, and they are wonderful,” PFS’ GoNorth! liason Kim Derry wrote yesterday. “After an overnight flight from Thunder Bay, Canada, Mille [Porsild] and Aaron [Doering] are in good spirits and we unloaded thousands of pounds of dog food and cargo from the DC-3 Basler (Kenn Borek Air). With the help of John [Hansen], the Police Chief, and a few other Thule locals, we moved the dogs from the Basler into a truck and got them situated at the East side of town. They are currently happy to be back on snow—it was getting too warm for them in Minnesota.” 

Mille Porsild, the dogs' primary handler, passes a dog to Kim Derry.


Kim, left, and Mille help the dogs into the truck.

“They’re all very good dogs – the usual mix, where some are shy and others demand loving or are really vocal. After I trucked them across town, they settled right in to their new digs,” wrote Kim.

Weather conditions at Thule Air Base kept GoNorth! leaders Aaron Doering and Mille Porsild inside today. The base commander declared a “Storm Condition Delta” during the day for sustained winds above 50 knots and visibility less than 100 yards.  During these conditions, all personnel are confined to their quarters, an untimely development for the pair who wished to visit their Polar Husky dogs. The “superstar” canines who arrived at the air base for an ice-sheet trek to Summit Station doubtless hunkered down and curled up across town to wait out the storm.

Aaron Doering, right, and Mille Porsild check the weather conditions at Thule. Photo: Robin Davies

The dogs and humans have been exploring the Arctic by sled for years. They’ve visited Alaska, Russia, Finland, Norway, Scandinavia, Canada and now Greenland. The dogs are bred for the adventure, and the people seek to research the impacts of climate change and report back in real time.  The team visits communities as they travel the Arctic, presenting their “What’s Climate Change to You?” program—the heart of the Aaron Doering / University of Minnesota-led National Science Foundation grant—at local schools.  When able, they overnight in these communities, sleeping in the school gym or other host shelters. This year, the need to avoid cross-breeding meant the Polar Huskies stayed home for the community visits; these were completed instead by guest-starring Greenlandic dog teams.

In addition to local outreach, the team takes samples and makes observations for a variety of science experiments, including an investigation of traditional ecological knowledge, and NSF-funded projects examining black carbon in snow and a prototype network for measuring winter precipitation.  Weekly, the team participates in live chats and updates the GoNorth! Web site with trail reports and photos. Classrooms across the US and all over the world participate in these live events and use the curriculum posted to the GoNorth! Web site to learn about the host country, the changing Arctic, and much more.

Soon the GoNorth! team will run up to Summit Station. They’ll follow the Greenland Inland Traverse team for the first 60 or so miles through the crevassed ice of the transition. The GrIT will carry thousands of pounds of dog food to resupply the GoNorth! four-leggers.

But no one’s going anywhere until the weather improves. Thule’s local forecast suggests it could be a little while before the Polar Huskies get in the harness.