STORIES
Animals

Balto

by Hope from Riley

Balto and Gunnar Kaasen
Balto and Gunnar Kaasen

In 1925 a disease broke out and all the sled dogs were called upon to save the children of Nome, Alaska. Balto was one of the dogs chosen to take part in this sled dog relay from Nenana to Nome and what he did made him a hero to the world and especially to all the families the dogs were able to save. Balto was a black and white Siberian husky who was born in 1922. He served as an inferior or slow-working dog also known as a "scrub dog" for the beginning of his life, which meant he and his dog team carried around supplies for miners. Balto is a hero because he was expected to fail but he led his pack to safety, and he brought back medicine, saving the citizens of Nome.

The disease that broke out was called diphtheria. It is a serious inflammation that destroys the lining of the throat. It causes the throat and neck to swell leading to difficulty breathing and if left untreated it can lead to death in as little as four days. The illness broke out quickly and the only doctor that Nome had could not help the citizens because the medicine he had for it was seven years old. More and more people were beginning to catch the disease and many of them died before Dr. Welch knew that he was going to be facing a pandemic. He needed at least one million units of serum to hold off the spread of diphtheria. The disease could have wiped out the entire city of Nome if they didn't receive medicine quick.

They had to send the medicine all the way from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The farthest that Anchorage could send it by train was to Nenana, which left over 670 miles of the journey left. They could not use a plane to fly the medicine from Nenana to Nome so they decided to set up a sled dog relay to send the serum over the remaining distance. The relay consists of about 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs and took five and-a-half days. The last leg of the race was mushed by Gunnar Kaasen. His sled dog team was led by Balto. Balto was not Kaasen's first pick for a lead dog because of his small size but that did not stop Balto. Into the last leg of the relay the weather had begun to get horrible and impossible to travel in. The temperature had dropped to below negative 50 degrees and the wind had become so strong it would blow the team off their path and sometimes knock them over. Kaasen was convinced that they needed to stop and let the storm pass because he could no longer find his way but Balto pushed on. He brought the team back safely traveling purely by memory. They arrived back in Nome early in the morning bringing back the medicine and saving the citizens.

Balto's Statue in Central Park
Balto's Statue in Central Park
After finishing the serum run the sled dogs, including Balto, were put on display. They traveled all around the United States and eventually Balto settled down in the Cleveland Zoo. Balto ended up dying in 1933 from old age, living to be 14 years old. His body was stuffed and now stands on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He also has a sculpture located in Central Park in New York City. The inscription on the statue reads, "Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across the treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards, from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of 1925 --- endurance, fidelity, intelligence."
I think the story of Balto is an amazing story. It tells of how sled dogs endured the toughest of situations and still pulled through to save the citizens of Nome, Alaska. Although the true story may be a little different from the movie that came out when we were children making Balto out as a character who ran the whole distance and had to overcome his enemies, it's still an unbelievable story. I believe that Balto is a truly inspiring story. One filled with perseverance, intelligence, strength, and joy and one that shows, no matter how great the odds are against you, if you believe you can always succeed.



Page created on 9/29/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/29/2015 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Youtube - Balto Brings the Medicine Back
Balto''s True Story - About Balto and His Story

Bibliography

Aversano, Earl J.. "Balto''s True Story." [Online] Available http://www.baltostruestory.net/balto.htm. Aversano.

unknown. "The Story of Balto." [Online] Available http://www.sibrescue.com/balto.html.

PBS. "Sled Dogs: An Alaskan Epic." [Online] Available http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/sled-dogs-an-alaskan-epic-balto/3145/.