Many dogs were born on the ice. The puppies were a welcome distraction for explorers and many grew up to pull sledges themselves.
Moll was born at Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1956. When she was a year old, she and her brother Butch joined Bob Miller in Antarctica on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Moll was the smallest member of the team and sometimes needed special care. On Bob’s 2,500 km journey, she bit her paw to remove ice and made it bleed, requiring her to wear booties to protect her feet. Another part of the journey was so strenuous and exhausting that Bob put her on the sledge to give her a rest. Moll was later given as a pet to the staff at the American Antarctic base, Little America V.
One night in January 1934, with the thermometer reading -20˚F, Taku gave birth to seven pups. They became the joy of Little America, Admiral Richard E Byrd’s base for his second expedition. As a pack, they travelled the snow tunnels of Dog Town, their underground kennel.
One night Cleo and Ten-Ten, along with their five siblings, mobbed the unsuspecting cook who had ventured into their area with a sandwich in his pocket. He tripped and dropped his flashlight. When he looked up, he saw several pairs of wild, beady eyes staring at him. When they came closer, he was convinced that he was about to be attacked by a pack of wolves, not a pack of puppies.
The arrival of puppies brought excitement to Antarctic expeditions. Seventeen puppies were born during the Discovery expedition in 1902. Conditions in Antarctica were too harsh for many of these new members of the team and by December, half of them had died.
The remaining pups – Tin Tacks, Tess, Warrior, Paddy, Nobby, Violet, Snowball and Rodger – amused themselves by chasing and killing penguins. This was undesirable behaviour. One day expedition member Clarence Hare recorded with humour in his diary, “The pups have been after penguins again, and it is a common sight to see one struggling along with a dead penguin tied round its neck as punishment.” Unfortunately, the puppies didn’t learn their lesson and the next day resumed their hunting.
Born during the dark icy winter of 1957 at McMurdo Station, Blizzard was taken to the Pole in December by American climatologist Paul Dalrymple. There he became a beloved mascot for the men at the newly-built Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Researchers, dignitaries and the press visited during the summer and Blizzard had the honour of having his photograph taken with Rear Admiral Dufek and Sir Edmund Hillary. When Sir Vivian Fuchs made it to the Pole with his sledge dogs, Blizzard attempted to make friends with the new arrivals. He was brutally rejected by their fangs.
On 20 March 1963, a husky named Erina gave birth to three pups at Scott Base—a female who was stillborn and two males who were named Harry and Toby. Toby had the honour of being named after Scott Base surveyor Jim Tobin.
Fed on a mixture of seal combined with full cream milk powder and the milk energy drink Complan, the dogs thrived. By three weeks, Toby weighed 4 kg, and at 10 months he weighed a massive 50 kg. For many years, he was the largest dog at the base. His handlers remember him fondly as very friendly with anyone who came near him, more alert than the other dogs and a strong, willing worker. After his death in 1969, his skeleton and collar were donated to Canterbury Museum.
Although dogs have an instinctive drive to run and pull, they must be trained to haul a sledge, work in a team and obey commands. Dog handlers at Scott Base used a small sledge for training puppies. As a winter-over project in the early 1990s, Brian Staite, the Scott Base Field Support Officer, re-lashed the sledge using the original lashing method.