Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs)

 Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs)

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CNHG

sleddogs-alaska-iditarod

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:10

Imagine a celebration of Siberian husky sled dogs, harnessed together as a racing team, guided by their human driver (called a “musher”), zooming across frigid snow trails in rural Alaska:  this is what happens in a commemorative festival/event called the IDITAROD TRAIL RACE.  (See the YouTube video footage below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI3bliK7R94

The Iditarod is an outdoors reenactment-like celebration of dogsled mushing, to remember the heroic relay race – through day and night, blizzard winds, snow, and ice – to save human lives, during a life-or-death crisis in January-February AD1925, when a highly contagious diphtheria plague struck like a serial killer, menacing the almost-unreachable population of Nome, Alaska.

The crisis was a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, a town on the Bering Sea coast of Alaska, during the winter of 1925. The diphtheria antitoxin in Anchorage needed to be delivered to Nome immediately because townspeople were dying of the disease, but the community was unreachable by air, boat, train, or motor vehicle.

A group of 20 mushers (dogsled drivers) and about 150 sled dogs rushed marathon-style in relay teams across blizzard-blown trails—and even over a dangerous shortcut across a frozen part of a Pacific Ocean inlet called Norton Sound—spanning the 674 miles in five and a half days to deliver the precious vials of life-saving serum to a waiting physician in Nome. For dogsledding, this was the most heroic achievement in history [674 miles in 127½ hours!], with speed and distance records set (and still unbroken) and helpless hundreds of quarantined Nome residents saved from the lethal diphtheria epidemic.

One surviving Nome resident was eight-year-old Sigrid Seppala, the only daughter of a Norwegian immigrant, Leonhard Seppala, a well-known musher. His nonstop leg of the cross-country relay covered the worst stretch of terrain, plus the frozen Norton Sound sea-ice that broke up only hours after his dog team traversed it with the serum! Guiding lead dog Togo, Seppala confronted gale-force winds and subfreezing temperatures (30OF with a windchill of -85OF) day and night, covering 91 miles—more than twice the distance of any of the other mushers.

Sigrid and many others sick in Nome were saved by the antitoxin serum. Fulfilling the dominion mandate surely includes such safeguarding of human lives, many of whom later were fruitful and multiplied, advancing human progress toward filling the earth to God’s glory. God’s dominion mandate was advanced as humans literally “harnessed” the service of well-trained animals.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Siberian Huskies and the Dominion Mandate”, Acts & Facts, 42(6):18-19 (June 2013), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/siberian-huskies-dominion-mandate   —  citing Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury, THE CRUELEST MILES: THE HEROIC STORY OF DOGS AND MEN IN A RACE AGAINST AN EPIDEMIC (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005), pages 46-245,  and  the interview of Jirdes Winther Baxter, in ALASKA: BIG AMERICA (The History Channel documentary, 2000).]

iditarod-trail-map-usgovt

Thanks to God – and to His servants, both human and canine – for providing the diphtheria plague’s remedy!  Many are alive today — thanks to God and His servants — who are direct descendants of Nome residents who survived the diphtheria epidemic, due to the heroism of the diphtheria serum relay race during January-February of AD1925.

No one has since equaled the dog-mushing distance/speed record set by those heroes, in AD1925. But we can remember their valor, including that of the sled-dogs (some of whom died of exhaustion), every time we see (or think of) another Iditarod dogsled race being run in Alaska.

sleddogs-winterlakelodge-alaska

Sled dogs in snow, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)

And one lodge resort (Winterlake Lodge), located at the Iditarod’s Finger Lake checkpoint (Mile 198), has provided us with another way to celebrate that historic (and providential) event – a special protein-and-vitamins-rich recipe – demonstrating Mexican cuisine with an Alaskan accent – by Kirsten Dixon, as published in ALASKA MAGAZINE, 81(1):22 (February 2015).

ALASKA MUSHER’S MEAL

This hearty recipe comes from chef Kirsten Dixon of the Winterlake Lodge at the Finger Lake checkpoint of the Iditarod race. Dixon says, “We make our own adobo sauce and homemade tortillas and serve this dish with freshly diced salsa. For a decidedly Alaskan twist, we add smoked salmon.”

¼ pound Mexican soft-style chorizo, casings removed
2 packages (4 ounces) Mexican dried chiles [a/k/a “chilies”, below, or “chilis” or “chili peppers”]
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground [black] pepper
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
8 4-inch flour tortillas
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup cooked and heated pinto beans
1 cup fresh simple salsa
½ pound Alaska hot-smoked (kippered) salmon, skinned and flaked
1 small bunch cilantro
½ cup shredded Manchego cheese
1 small bunch green onion, green part minced
1 lime quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 [degrees] F.

Line a 13-by-18-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Crumble the chorizo into a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Cook thoroughly for about five minutes. Drain any grease from the pan. Set the pan aside.

Split the chilies in half, removing any stem and seeds. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat and toast the chilies two or three at a time, turning them while they are heating. They’ll change color slightly in the process.

Soak the chilies in enough water to cover until they’re soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the chilies and pat them dry.

Put a half-cup of water into a blender with the soaked chilies along with the garlic, vinegar, one teaspoon salt, the sugar, and ground cumin. Blend until smooth, adding in a bit more water if necessary to purée. Add the chili mixture into the cooked chorizo.

Heat the tortillas in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Place them onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tortillas with the Cheddar cheese. Place the baking sheet into the oven just [enough] to melt the cheese. Remove the pan from the oven and place each tortilla onto a warmed plate.

In a small nonstick sauté pan, melt one teaspoon of butter over medium-high heat until it is frothy. Crack one egg into the skillet and fry until the egg is set, about one minute. Slide the egg onto one fo the tortillas. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Add some of the chorizo-chili sauce onto each tortilla. Spoon on some of the beans, some salsa, some flaked hot-smoked salmon, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Sprinkle each dish with some Manchego cheese and a little green onion. Season with salt and [black] pepper. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

Makes 4 servings.

[Quoting Kirsten Dixon, as published in ALASKA MAGAZINE, 81(1):22 (February 2015).]

alaska-sleddogs-sleeping-winterlakelodge

Sled dogs sleeping, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)

After eating a feast-dish like that, accented with Alaska salmon, one is reminded that good food is itself a proof positive of God’s kind and caring providence.

Food provides strong evidence of God’s wisdom and power as our Creator, as well as His goodness in providing for fallen mankind’s physical needs. In fact, the Bible teaches that the providentially programmed production of all food, anywhere and everywhere on earth, is itself a continuing proof that God is a caring Creator. The apostle Paul taught this:

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, Who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein, Who in times past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:15-17, emphasis added)

Think about God’s providence and how it is displayed on earth.

God has demonstrated His immeasurable glory by His many acts of providential care for His creatures, especially humans and animals. Yet some of what God provides is so commonplace that it is routinely ignored, although that ignorance cannot negate the overwhelming proof of God’s providence. . . . .

Likewise, God’s provision of an amazing diversity of foods—around the world, in every age, in every culture, to every people group—is proof positive that God is Creator. Food is absolutely necessary to prolong our physical life.

Why? As a result of Adam’s sin, death entered the human race (Romans 5:12). God’s warning to Adam indicated a double-death penalty: “To die thou shalt die” (Genesis 2:17, which includes an infinitive-imperfect “double verb” in the Hebrew text).

Sin immediately triggered a relational break between Creator and creature, because God is holy. That relational break was a spiritual death, a separation from God that Paul called being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Also, sin triggered an ongoing process of dying physically—what some scientists call “chemistry eventually wins out over biology”—so our human bodies die. Before birth, even from the time of conception, our physical bodies are dying, yet the metabolic profit we gain from eating food postpones and prolongs that dying process. (If you doubt food’s necessity, try abstaining from eating for two months!

In some humans, physical life is prolonged by food for more than a century.

But, in time, the condition of mortality takes its toll and we all anticipate death, even if we eat every day. Food only postpones the inevitable. But while it does, it is a life-sustaining fuel, an amazing and precious gift from our Creator, as well as a testimony to the amazingly complex and efficient world He designed . . . . .

No random “chance” could provide a satisfactory explanation for the results of God’s providential care,  — and the proof is everywhere, for those with eyes to see, even in every bite we eat. No wonder we are obligated to give thanks to God for our food.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Our Daily Bread:  How Food Proves God’s Providence”, Acts & Facts, 40(4):8-9 (April 2011),  posted at http://www.icr.org/article/our-daily-bread-how-food-proves-gods   —  quoting Acts 14:17.]

So, next time you hear — or read — about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, remember what it commemorates — the amazing and historic life-saving heroism of the “Great Race of Mercy”  — accomplished by the diphtheria serum relay racers, a providentially blessed team of brave humans and resilient sled-dogs, who dared and braved the worst of winter weather, during January-February of AD1925, to defeat a serial-killer plague named Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

diphtheria-vaccination-poster-britain

PHOTOGRAPHS & OTHER IMAGE CREDITS:

Iditarod Sled Dogs:   http://helpsleddogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/4412510551_94c80e1f51_b.jpg

Iditarod National Historic Trail (U.S. government map / public domain)

Sled dogs in snow, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)
Fair Use photo credit: http://d3r6t1k4mqz5i.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_0086.jpg?f9f931

Sled dogs sleeping, Winterlake Lodge (Finger Lake, Alaska)
Fair Use photo credit: http://www.tordrillonorth.com/images/lodge-05.jpg

Diphtheria vaccination poster   (Great Britain: public domain), available at Wikipedia


 

7 Comments

  1. Thanks, Lee — and I not surprised that you caught the Genesis Mandate part, in light of your ICR Genesis Mandate studies. A follow-up (application) of that topic is scheduled to run in the January AD2017 issue of ACTS & FACTS, so stay tuned!

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