Courageous Deeds

Some dogs were noted for their bravery in the face of Antarctica's freezing temperatures and savage winds.

Dog modelling a parachute harness. United States Army Signal Corps Collection. No known copyright restrictions

Antarctic Life Insurance

During Operation Deep Freeze, the American missions to Antarctica in the 1950s, the United States Navy planned to use 30 dogs for search and rescue operations.

In areas inaccessible to vehicles or unsuitable for landing planes, sledges and parachuting dogs nicknamed “paradogs” could be dropped in to help those in distress. The plan proved to be dangerous and impractical and the dogs were redeployed for sledging missions.

Antarctic husky dog Kid on the Discovery expedition

Kid the Courageous. Canterbury Museum 1999.204.19. No known copyright restrictions

Kid the Courageous

Discovery expedition steward Clarence Howard Hare owed his life to his favourite dog, Kid. During a howling snowstorm in 1902, Hare became separated from the rest of his sledging party. He eventually stumbled upon three of their dogs, including Kid. Overcome by drowsiness and fearing he would fall asleep and freeze to death, Hare kept moving. In his confusion, he fell down a slippery slope and succumbed to sleep.

When he awoke two days later, he found a mould in the ice created by Kid. Man and dog had slept sledge-dog style, curled up side-by-side and covered by an insulating layer of snow. Kid’s body heat had kept Hare alive. Known as Kid the Courageous, he died the following year. Robert Falcon Scott, the leader of the expedition, wrote about him with fondness:

He has pulled like a Trojan throughout, and his stout little heart bore him up till his legs failed beneath him, and he fell never to rise again.
Surviving members of Ernest Shackleton's Ross Sea Party with sledge dog Oscar

Oscar with surviving members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1917. Canterbury Museum 1975.231.36. No known copyright restrictions

Oscar the Lifesaver

Described by one expedition member as a lazy dog with a “criminal-type forehead” and “dirty habits”, Oscar was unpopular with many members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition supply ship Aurora. Despite his bad reputation, he ended the expedition a hero.

During a raging blizzard, when the men were weak and suffering from scurvy, Oscar and three other dogs pulled them through snow drifts to safety. The men vowed that for their heroic effort, the dogs would live in comfort for the remainder of their days. They returned to New Zealand, and as promised, Oscar and several of his Aurora team mates spent their retirement in the comfort of Wellington Zoo.