On 22 February 1994, nearly 95 years to the day after they arrived, the last dogs left Antartica. The terms of the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty required that all non-indigenous animals, with the exception of humans, be removed. It was argued that dogs posed a potential threat to seals through attacks or diseases. The introduction of “tin dogs” — all-terrain vehicles such as snowmobiles — also made dog sledging redundant.
The last dogs to leave were 13 Canadian Eskimo huskies from Britain’s Rothera Research Station. They were returned to their ancestral home amongst the Inuit of northern Canada. The only dogs in Antartica today are those who perished long ago and rest on the ice.
Jens was one of the last dogs to live and work at Scott Base. When he was born in 1978, dogs had largely been replaced by motorised vehicles. However, they were valued for their companionship and had become a part of everyday life on the base. On 17 January 1987, Jens had his last outing on the ice. A few weeks later, he boarded the US ship Greenwave with the 13 other remaining Scott Base dogs and headed for Lyttelton. Their final destination was the snowy state of Minnesota in the United States.
Jens lived out his final year in Fairbanks Alaska and died in 1988. His pelt was presented to Canterbury Museum and made into a mounted specimen. Today, Jens can be seen in the Museum’s Antarctic Gallery on Level 3.
The dogs for Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition were purchased in 1911 from the area near Sakhalin Island in eastern Russia, north of Japan. Known in Russian as Sakhalin laika, these large, muscular dogs were bred by the Nivkh people and used by Russian and Japanese explorers to pull sledges. Later, the Soviet army used them for work.
During the 1930s, when it became too expensive to feed them on their traditional diet of salmon, many were killed. Today they are virtually extinct. Volunteers care for the remaining dogs and are trying to revive the breed.
Recently a Sakhalin laika named Viyga gave birth to a litter of puppies. Local businesses also support the dogs by supplying money and fresh fish.