Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dogsled mail

Sometimes, there aren't any roads.

And yet, the Postal Service has a universal service mandate to deliver the mail.

For many years, mail dog teams delivered to communities in Alaska.

They aren't really a bad mode of transport. They covered long distances, traveling over a variety of terrain including deep snow, iced lakes and dark trails.

The strong Malamutes dog is the best sled dog because of their thick coats, furry paws and the ability to sleep on the open snow without a hut. Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, setters, spaniels, and collies were also used. Each team carried between 500-700 pounds of mail.

The only downside was the food they required. They ate plenty and somehow, the chow had to be hauled along with the mail.

Mail carriers and their dogs were treated like royalty on the trail. Road houses offered their best beds to carriers who did not have their own cabins along the trail, and lead dogs slept inside.
The famed 2,300-mile Iditarod Trail was the main dog trail that carried mail from Seward to Nome. Over-night roadhouses served mail carriers, freighters, and other travelers who used dog sleds or horses.

In 1963, with the retirement of musher Chester Noongwook, regular sled dog mail delivery ended.

An Alaskan Dog Sled, Courtesy Smithsonian.


Anonymous said...

When I hear the legislature and public speak of "privitizing" USPS, do they understand what "universal service" really means?

From the remote areas of Alaska reachable only by plane, islands by boat, and bottom of the Grand Canyon by mule, USPS delivers everywhere!

Grannybunny said...

Nostalgia aside, mail transport by dog sled must have been difficult and dangerous. It is a testament to the courage and dedication of the sledders and their teams of dogs.

Anonymous said...

We are going green... maybe we should bring back the dog sled mail transport.

Anonymous said...

It'll be just as fast as today ;)

Truckload (LTL) Shipment said...

I'm surprised that in this technology age dogsled mail are still present for those very remote places.

Anonymous said...

that is very cool